Creativity, inspiration, ideas... people often wonder where they come from. An attentive look at the world and a sufficient amount of time are necessary prerequisites. PARCS, the newly developed furniture line from the London design firm of PearsonLloyd, provides us with an occasion to look into this question.
PARCS is a room-shaping furniture set that can be assembled in many different combinations and adapted to various work landscapes. The furniture sets fulfil the need for productive communication and informal exchange in the office. As diverse as the possibilities for the use of PARCS are, the sources of inspiration during the design process were equally diverse – from traditional West African assembly spaces to Irish stone formations to classic wingback chairs.
The elements allude to archetypal forms and connect them with modern ways of working.
Our inspirational journey begins in Mali in the region of West Africa. The Dogon people here use the Toguna as a meeting space for the village elders. The special feature of the Toguna is its low ceiling, which is only one metre tall. The effect is easy to understand: whenever one of the meeting participants stands up to argue, he hits his head on the ceiling and is forced to sit back down. This allows for the quick regulation of emotions – and participants are forced back into an appropriate discourse.
The physical structure contributes to the fair and democratic conduct of discussions. When you think about how the design of a space can influence the behaviour of meeting participants, the association with the workplace comes quickly. The Toguna’s cocoon feeling makes it a space that represents a communicative, social element.
While the Toguna is derived from West Africa, the idea for the second PARCS typology, the Causeway, comes from another continent: Europe.
One of the central motifs behind Causeway is the Giant Causeway in Northern Ireland. This is a natural rock formation of approximately 40,000 prism-shaped basalt columns that lean against each other and stretch vertically into the sky. Because they are different in breadth and height, there are innumerable steps that you can climb up and down all over.
PearsonLloyd noticed that every visitor found a different place to sit. Some people crouched down, some just hang out. No one takes the exact same position as anyone else. The objective in the development of the Causeways furniture modules was to enable precisely this freedom for people to experience a wide range of ergonomic possibilities.
The second source of inspiration was in Rome: the Spanish Steps. This is one of the most famous flights of stairs in the world and is among the most renowned sightseeing destinations in Rome. Therefore, it’s not surprising that it is a beloved meeting place for tourists and the youths of Rome. When the weather is beautiful, there is colourful life on and around the Spanish Steps. PearsonLloyd found it particularly interesting to see that different groups of people were able to create their own space, even when it was very crowded. Even if other people are only two or three steps away, you can still interact and communicate in your own independent space. This provided confirmation that such open zones can also be used in a workplace – where different groups are present – without walls, yet while retaining the proper functionality in an appropriate space.
One aspect that is possible in the Toguna and essential for the Wing series is the creation of private space. The inspiration for the "Wings" came from an entirely different cultural milieu. This line is oriented towards furniture that has a long tradition in Europe and North America – the wingback chair. Much like their predecessors, the Wing Chair and Wing Sofa reduce visual and acoustic distractions yet emphasise these "capabilities" through their form – and they offer modern flair. Their ability to swivel is an additional step in shaping your private sphere.
During the design process, the Wing product line was expanded. The Wing Chair was the only seating furniture designed for activities, concentration and privacy. Activities such as speaking on the telephone, reading or concentrating. The Wing Sofa expanded this typology to a somewhat larger collection of furniture that also displays some reverence for an American classic: the American diner. It offers seating for four to six people – as a place to have conversations that can be situated in any open space.
The Idea Wall was inspired quite recently. The basic idea came from the realisation that media technology is an essential component in every office today. But how can they be shaped into an accessible form that meets the needs of the modern workplace? The use of media technology should be possible in a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere with flexible design possibilities. The result of this process of reflection and development was the Idea Wall, an integral component of PARCS. The free-standing wall element with a screen can be expanded to include a table top, a ceiling with lights or storage elements. And these elements fit ideally with other PARCS furniture.
True to its name, the Idea Wall is a community space. Technology is very important for video conferences, presentations or collaboration via screen-based activities. Some areas are custom-tailored for these special activities, while others have a more general-use character, such as the seating areas inspired by the Giant Causeway. This is designed the way it is order to encourage people to come together, regardless of what they are doing.
Fantasy knows no bounds when it comes to combinatory possibilities and uses. This allows everyone to be on the same page when their office is equipped with PARCS elements. May the furniture be as inspiring for the office workers as the original ideas were for the designers!