The North American landscape of contract interiors of the past 50 years continues to unfold the concept of the Schnelle brothers’ “Burolandschaft,” or open office plan. Layouts, initially driven by physical communication patterns, have given way in the last two decades to other formative influences. Digital communication, social awareness, ergonomics, and sustainability have become the engines of change. Future predictions—invariably inaccurate—had the home office expanding significantly, but with its inherent dysfunction, it lacked the human interaction and spontaneity to take a strong hold.
Technology, such as wireless data and just-emerging wireless power transmission, will become the major catalysts of change. Environmental issues and therefore reusable systems now permeate our thinking and execution of design. The job of contract furnishings is to adapt and facilitate these workplace changes in the goal of higher productivity and work contentment.
Other smaller, yet important, scale change items include the Post-it and PDA, the latter allowing continuity of work communication to become seamless between workstations, into remote spaces, and in transit; its implications are yet to evolve fully. The laptop and PDA also have allowed hoteling to take place.
I have endeavored to identify 10 items that have brought about and allowed for change. They are design winners irrespective of any awards they may have received, as they have had a permanent impact on the profile of interior architecture.
Swedish-born Carl Magnusson has dedicated his career to the profession of design, having worked with the office of Ray & Charles Eames in Venice, Calif., and with Knoll for 29 years as director of design in Europe and North America. With his New York-based firm CGM Design, he currently serves the automotive and furniture industries with design strategy and product design.
Note: This March 2010 Resources section article “The Top 10 Commercial Interiors Products of the Past 50 Years”, refers to Tek-Wall as “the first durable, woven, high performance wallcovering for high-traffic applications.” In fact, Carnegie’s durable, woven, high-performance wallcovering product Xorel® was introduced three years earlier in 1981.
Letter to the Editor
To Contract magazine:
I am a big fan of Contract and the excellent job it does of covering our industry. However, I was quite dismayed with your approach to celebrating products in your 50th Anniversary March issue. It’s puzzling to me that one person was chosen to write from his own perspective on the topic—“The Top 10 Commercial Interiors Products of the Past 50 Years.” Only a few pages later you engaged “10 iconic design practitioners” to write about their perspectives on the industry. This article brought a diversity of viewpoints and a broad-minded approach.
I feel Contract badly missed the mark on this topic of top 10 products. Why wasn’t a roundtable engaged for this discussion? Or why weren’t present and past Contract editors polled? In an issue which by its very nature should be broad based, it was effectively one individual’s personal perspective.
In addition, the author errs in his reference to Tek Wall by Maharam as “the first durable, woven, high-performance wallcovering for high-traffic applications” from 1984. This is factually incorrect, as Carnegie introduced its ground-breaking Xorel product in 1981. In fact, in our literature we reference it as the first woven high-performance textile for high traffic areas.
Contract magazine should have taken a more consensus based approach in writing such an important piece to give this topic the proper due it deserved.