PearsonLloyd by Mark Cocksedge

Architecture & Design

Designing Toguna Circle

Design Team Team Space Teamwork Interview PearsonLloyd

At the beginning of the collaboration between PearsonLloyd and Bene it was evident that there was a desire to develop a completely new unconventional furniture system able to foster spontaneous communication and collaboration as well as usher in a new era of office life. PARCS is the response to the growing importance of knowledge work, which is the main driver of demand for a new generation of furniture products and inspirational workplaces.

PARCS has already won a number of international design awards and is already established as one of the most important and successful ranges in the Bene portfolio.

The idea and name Toguna originates in Mali, West Africa. There it describes a meeting place where the village elders meet to make important decisions. The PARCS Toguna is a semi-enclosed, free-standing capsule and is the most distinctive product in the range, a place for brainstorming, short meetings or private conversations which people can do while sitting, standing or leaning. Toguna is the most compact meeting room in the world. Now the latest development is the Toguna Circle.

What were the most important considerations in the development of Toguna Circle?
Since it was launched in 2009, Toguna has enjoyed a great deal of positive feedback from architects, designers and end-users. The starting point of PARCS is the idea that people are productive when they are away from their main place of work. Toguna represents a new step in this direction: towards an informal, semi-private meeting room within an office to encourage the exchange of ideas, cooperation as well as creativity and innovation. These are the most wellestablished contemporary demands in the market.

The tradition in offices was that teamwork and meetings took place in formal conference rooms with a fixed interior fit-out. Toguna Circle offers an entirely new and sophisticated alternative, an extension of the places available for collaborative work in the office.

In what way are the new Toguna products different from the originals?
The original Toguna has space for six people and is designed for meetings lasting no longer than twenty or thirty minutes or so. After its launch we received

feedback from designers that there was also a need for a product able to stage meetings for more participants and longer meetings. It was also essential that the
design of Toguna should remain distinctive and unmistakeable.

While developing the first PARCS collection, we had our eyes on the development of a team space that would accurately reflect the culture of meetings in an organisation and promote informal communication. We wanted to create a space that would encourage an ongoing exchange between members of the team. To make room for more people we took the decision to restrict the size of the walls of Toguna Circle. Lower walls create a more open feel and invite people to linger.

PARCS has now been sold worldwide. In order to help with its ongoing development, we welcomed feedback from customers, consultants, designers, architects and especially individual end-users. What part did that play in how Toguna Circle was created?
Since the initial launch of PARCS, we have been able to draw on the real experience of those customers and specifiers interested in testing existing products as a way of improving them and coming up with new ideas across the entire range. This process of continuous improvement has emerged as a key success factor for PARCS. The design process for Toguna Circle offers a perfect example of our own approach to collaborative working. Although we already had an idea of how this new team space would work from the very beginning, the end result is refined by the input from users giving feedback based on their own experiences. In one case of a project in Australia, changes to the design process were based solely on customer feedback. For example, we developed a greater depth for the seat, softer cushions and a range of new media applications.

Team work is increasingly important in the modern workplace. But what role does Toguna Circle play?
Toguna Circle offers even the largest teams a place in which they can work together in new ways, from traditional breakfast briefings to brainstorming sessions, lunch, coffee breaks or even a get together for an after work drink. It can be used so that the team can watch a sporting event together on the television. People enjoy using this dynamic and comfortable space. And Toguna Circle even strikes the right balance between relaxation and focused work.

Toguna Circle offers designers total flexibility and so can be changed quickly and easily. The upholstered wall panels offer a degree of acoustic privacy for the whole space. And with a large selection of materials and finishes, Toguna helps customers to convey corporate identity.

Is there an ideal organisation for Toguna Circle?
We believe this product can be an asset to any organisation. Wherever people work together, Toguna Circle can enhance and support their communications. That is true across all market sectors because effective communication underpins success across the whole of the knowledge economy.