Review: The Workspace Design Show – a London debut

Chris Fordham, Design Editor of The Light Review, threw caution to the wind and headed north of The River to find out what was being said at the inaugural Workspace Design Show at the Business Design Centre . . . you remember the Business Design Centre, of course you do.
This is what our hero has to say:

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The new kid on the exhibition merry-go-round ‘Workspace Design Show’, made its debut this year on November 5th, at the Business Design Centre, (situated in the sunlit streets of Islington North London). This is a venue that doesn’t overload you, giving you time to see all who are showing their wares without FOMO. By dint of its size, you don’t mind spending a bit more time with companies for a proper chinwag.

Given we are heading into a virgin landscape (after this pandemic where most of us worked from home for at least a couple of months), I was really interested to see if anyone here could predict any significant changes to the way we would be working in the future. After all, we have already begun to see a change to the workplace where the need for flexibility is really a given; we tried it, we liked it and we aren’t going back ?! (Time to whack on a bit of John Lennon – power to the people etc etc)  .  

From the get-go you had the feeling that there was a more nuanced approach to products in Workspace, with acoustic lights here in abundance; workspace hubs and products that seemed to be softer in aesthetic or effect; something more inviting and less sterile.

The company with by far the largest offering of Acoustic light was BuzziSpace, displaying some Buzzi tubes, (An acoustic hollow ring that they suggest you use with any pre-existing lighting unit which,  as a lighting publication, we wont be featuring here), and BuzziJet, a product which I have been told is very much form-follows-function, described as having an aerodynamic design, (which seems to fly in the face of the form-following-function quote . . . I mean its not going anywhere at speed is it, why does it need to be aerodynamic ? (Anyway it is quite aesthetically pleasing !)

‘Buzzi Spaces’ by Buzzi Jet – small, medium and large

I wanted to know if acoustic products tend to lend themselves to a certain look and feel, due to their use, or if is this was an outdated view ?

Richard Ellerbeck Of Buzzi Space –   ‘Buzzi Spaces’ extensive use of both PET and high-density foam has allowed us to stretch creative boundaries in terms of creating more organic product designs as opposed to the rigid, straight angled profiles of various other acoustic solutions. Our focus on hand craftsmanship and high-quality upholstery work has allowed us to deliver acoustic solutions with a very soft, yet bold visual aesthetic that can contribute positively to both the acoustic comfort of a space as well as the overall décor.

Allsfar is another company showing their acoustic offering, with its light Eclipse, a Mixology20 finalist for product of the year. Before I discovered acoustic lighting products, I hadn’t really appreciated what a pain in the proverbial, bad acoustics can create, and in the same way as when you buy a red car, all you can see are red cars,  I started to notice noise pollution everywhere I went – noisy restaurants, meeting rooms, breakout spaces. Now you too can share in this joy !.

The product has been designed to be able to match existing furnishings, colour schemes, and with a distinctly nature inspired theme, (the wide range of 26 colours all named after birds), means you can choose a dollarbird to owl finish . . . although you might have to spend a little longer explaining what that colour actually is.

The product uses 60% recycled PET, is low in VOCs ( Volatile organic compounds responsible for a number of health impacts) and has no formaldehyde binders.

I must confess I was originally drawn to the stand by an acoustic art piece, which I thought a great way to reduce noise without being obtrusive. Eclipse is made from Öra 12mm acoustic PET felt which has excellent sound absorbing properties. The Öra material has also achieved Quiet Mark accreditation, meaning it is one of the quietest products on the market. Lamp is an E27, designer to specify the most appropriate colour temperature and rendering.

Eclipse Light from Allsfar

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Mute’s stand had the sort of look and feel that companies trying to encourage staff who have spent most of the last year at home, would be aiming for. Soft edges, warm colours, and acoustic lighting that wouldn’t be out of place in a piano bar.

The product that sparked my interest due to its multi-use was a floor standing product called ‘Mist’ a floor lamp that provided three functions (four if you count the inductive charger on every lamp). The product works as a sound absorber, space divider, lamp, and in the designer Maja Ganszyniec’s own words –

I believe that in modern interior design, every inch and square meter has to be used effectively. I’ve observed that in some offices plenty of space is taken by acoustic products with only one function. In my opinion, the era of one-function products is coming to an end as we have less and less space, and we’ve got to make the most of it. That is why the Mist Lamp is multifunctional: sound absorber, space divider, and lamp.

I like the idea that as a lighting designer this product would provide a soft glow with pools of light, as well as all its other functions, making it easier to specify – and justify (although given the most recent BS EN 12464-1 office regulations requiring 750 lux on the task area, pools of light may be something of a pipe dream) .

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Mute Mist Floor – by Tymon Nogalski_S
Mute Mist Floor – by Tymon Nogalski_S

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There have been a lot of iterations of the recessed downlight, and I mean A LOT, and I pity the poor sales rep who is obliged to go out and pitch the latest version of this sometimes-overused product. That said, since the demise of halogen lamps, there is certainly a massive product offering in terms of colour rendering, glare, and price. For me, light quality is often one of the most critical elements for residential projects and places where people will be spending a lot of time. I don’t give a fig about colour rendering in toilets or corridors for example. (ed.note: this is a VERY personal opinion!)

Price is often an obstacle here, but Optelma’s new downlight range to be released in January comes in at under £50 and all using the new Bridgelux ‘Thrive’ LED engines full spectrum LED.

In the words of Optelma’s national sales manager Johnathan Phillips;,

‘Giving arguably the highest quality artificial light source in the world. We don’t believe anyone has a better one. We have based designs around a modular approach where each component is replaceable. This helps those who, like Optelma, value the circular economy approach.’

I’d like to think a full spectrum downlight for under £50 will make people think twice before littering their ceiling with cheap, glare-y alternatives. There are four products in the range. Beam angles go from narrow 15 degree up to wide 55 degree, the downlights are mains dimmable by default, but available with DALI and wireless solutions as required, with a wall wash version, fixed and adjustable.

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from Optelma: Lotus Round ; Lotus Wallwash : Mari Round : Ivy Round

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Author

  • You can contact Chris at cf@thelightreviewonline.com His lighting design website address is www.limelumen.co.uk “‘Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light. Our eyes are made to see forms in light; light and shade reveal these forms; cubes, cones, spheres, cylinders or pyramids are the great primary forms which light reveals to advantage; the image of these is distinct and tangible within us without ambiguity’ ” — Le Corbusier. 'Vers une architecture' [Towards a new Architecture] (1923)

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