In 2007 Bene approached PearsonLloyd to conduct a research and development project entitled ‘New Meeting Environments’. The brief was intentionally open, and allowed the design team to research how people interact in today’s workspaces. The result of this exploration is PARCS; a range of seating, table and screening products that facilitate networking, meetings, presentations and those informal interactions that are so often the catalyst for a new idea. It is Bene’s best selling series to date.
The products stem from the observation that communication between individuals and teams is rapidly becoming the most important process in today’s ‘knowledge’ economy. While developments in information technology (such as mobile phones, tablets, and wireless laptops) free workers from the confines of a desk and enable them to set up wherever is convenient for the task at hand, the reality is that most of today’s office spaces are not set up to facilitate this kind of movement. PearsonLloyd’s goal with PARCS is to offer a more flexible and social office landscape, creating spaces for workers to have a quick meeting, give a short presentation or even take a private mobile phone call.
The range comprises more than a dozen elements that deliver a choice of workplace settings and configurations; enabling workers to lounge, lean, perch, or stand, and offering varying degrees of privacy and integrated technology. The main components include:
Causeway: a collection of modular upholstered benches and walls at varying heights, which assemble to form configurations that encourage informal meetings and sitting postures.
Wing: a collection of armchairs, sofas and meeting booths, which provide both comfort and privacy.
Toguna: a semi private, roofed meeting space for impromptu gatherings. The product is available in two heights, for standing and sitting. The latter references the low-ceilinged meeting spaces of the Dogon Tribe in Mali, Africa, where tribal elders are forced to sit down to avoid confrontational argument.
The Idea Wall and Library: Causeway elements, which respectively provide audio-visual, information technology presentation facilities, and storage for periodicals and books.
Phonebooth: a free standing semi acoustic booth for workers to take a private call.
Club Series – a new series of club chairs which offer varying levels of privacy.
Because the PARCS products are intended for shorter periods of use, employees working among these products are encouraged to work in a more mobile way. Introducing this culture of movement into the workspace was at the heart of PearsonLloyd’s thinking. The design studio reviewed the definition of ergonomics: “the discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system”, and found that rather than simplify ergonomic products as chairs with adjustment mechanisms, it could be expanded to describe the way workers exist in a bigger system of products. While great care has been paid to details such as the hardness of the upholstered elements – so they function as a comfortable seats, benches for eating and using a laptop on etc – on the whole ergonomics is less prescribed in PARCS, rather opportunities are given wherever possible to allow users to choose how and where they work, promoting a healthier working pattern.
All the products have an elegant and neutral aesthetic so they fit into any environment – including those beyond the office workplace such as in the hospitality, education, retail, transport and healthcare industries. Adaptable and flexible, PARCS is also easy to move, and it is quick and economic to create a range of meeting environments that do not require architectural intervention or structural elements.