(Written by Esme Banks Marr)
Day 1. Team Jo and Esme (affectionately known as ‘Jesme’) arrived in EC1 for our first Clerkenwell Design Festival. Magenta stickers lined the pavement, pointing towards exhibitions and events; magenta banners decorated the streets; and magenta feather flags were outside all the hottest showrooms in town. I think it’s safe to say we felt quite at home. CDW appeared to be ready for us, and we were ready for CDW.
Our workplace journey began with an architecture boat tour of the Thames, hosted by the lovely Interface – who are setting the pace for development of modular carpet using materials and processes that take less from the environment.
As we headed west down the Victoria Embankment under Reginald Blomfield’s Lambeth Bridge, towards Millbank Tower and passed Sidney Smith’s Tate Gallery. One thing we noticed is the distinct lack of female architects mentioned. The new American Embassy building provided us with one, however – Karen Timberlake. As we know, this is all now changing. Watch this space, 2030’s tour will no doubt mention a lot more female architects.
As we turned around and headed back down the Southbank we passed St Thomas’ hospital (when we learnt this impressive building was actually co-designed by Florence Nightingale) and ended up just passed the Wheel and OXO Tower. We hopped on our coaches and headed back to great hospitality and a very enlightening content from Interface and Architectural History Lecturer Benedict O’Looney.
Well, what can we say? Firstly, we can adequately name drop architects’ names in conversation from now on. We even know buildings they’ve designed – and thanks to the pie, mash and glass of wine on the boat, our productivity juices were flowing and we took heaps of notes, outlining the who’s, what, where, how’s and when’s – that we’ve relayed back to the Magenta team.
We then popped into Humanscale’s showroom (an office favourite) to check out their new Diffrient chair – the first foray into all-mesh task seating by Humanscale. We wanted to see for ourselves how it varied from the liberty task chairs we have here at Magenta. They’re largely similar. This didn’t stop us tweeting to try and win one though…
After meeting the team at Shaw (contract flooring) for a Pimm’s in their ‘park’ showroom, which was decorated with beautiful biophilic bonsai trees and abuzz with people printing and decorating CDW tote bags, we walked passed endless displays, artwork, and designer/furniture folk on the way back to Farringdon.
Day one complete. A lot of travel, with three hours putting our sea (ok, river) legs to the test, but largely worth it.
Day 2. I flew solo in the morning. I headed straight to OCEE (a manufacturer of commercial furniture who work with office furniture resellers, design and build consultants and architects) for their RIBA CPD session on ‘Wellbeing and productivity in the office environment’. Ergonomist Stephen Bowden gave a presentation that applied science to this very topic, explaining how physiotherapist and ergonomists were working with OCEE to help with their workplace assessment offering to clients. According to Wilson and Sharples research statistics he referenced, 55% of business operational costs are down to salary – concluding we need to make sure we get the most out of our workforce, so therefore – look after them!
It was here I started hearing the buzzword of the week – “presenteeism” and the issue surrounding the lack of being mentally present at work (which apparently costs 37% of the UK economies of GDP – Hummer, Sherman and Quinn: 2002). Presenteesim is even more costly than absenteeism.
It all ended on the poignant ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ – well-said Benjamin Franklin, and an incredibly crucial thing to remember when trying to deal with this issue.
I then met Cathy and Jo at Herman Miller’s temporary home for the week, for a lunchtime session on ‘Making the most of meetings’ and to also check out another new edition to the world of chairs – the Keyn chair.
Lilian Antonio, senior ergonomist for HM gave a fantastic rundown (with equally fantastic lunch-meeting canapés) on the physical, cognitive and social aspects of how thinking about ergonomics can help us have better meetings.
After a quick stop to discuss all things FX at Modern Pantry for some well earned lunch, we moved briskly on to Bolon, to celebrate the launch of the Bolon By You range and explore the endless possibilities of their new versatile jacquard collection.
We ended day two with a quick tour around Gresham’s showroom, as they were celebrating 40 years as one of the UK’s largest independent designers and manufacturers of workspace furniture. They showcased a range of innovative office chairs as well as unveiling their new corporate identity.
Day 3. The final day, a chance to get around to the showrooms I hadn’t yet seen…
First was my stop off was Milliken, one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of floor coverings, as functional and sustainable as they are inspiring and original.
There was a street art event going on with artists Jimmy C, Ben Eine, Artista, Anatomica and Dan Kitchener painting live – pretty impressive to see. When I popped back there later in the day, a DJ had taken to the decks for an evening of 1980’s retro sounds of the streets. Also pretty cool.
Milliken have recently launched a new initiative developed to tackle the issue of access into the design, interiors and construction sectors for young people, ‘DesigningFutures@CDW’. Set up by Jade-Ilke Creative Solutions and supported by Magenta client Sketch Studios, Designing Futures hosted creative workshops throughout the festival.
The Gallery, a pretty groundbreaking collaboration zone, showcased each of the key elements that make up an office interior and a forum for innovative design and fresh thinking. Under the one roof it housed products from Silverline, Viasit, Tangent, Ergo, Sixteen 3 and Mohawk Marlings. The final night of the festival showed the venue open its doors to a BBQ catered by Gaucho and a DJ. It also gave me the chance to see the aircharge product range – the latest in wireless charging solutions (and my favourite item from the week, a must for the future of Magenta’s office…). To be perfectly frank, I couldn’t get it to work on my phone… but the demonstration proved to be enough to get me hooked.
I finished my week with a wander around the House of Culture, hosted by ICON. A beautiful Victorian building, which featured a curated selection of top international brands within the extraordinary surroundings of the infamous Fabric nightclub.
It was an extremely exciting, eventful, insightful and full-on week, I came away dreaming of chairs, filled with pie, mash, champagne and coffee, and [productively] writing lists on how I can avoid any issues with presenteeism.
… Back to the office I go to apply some of the learning!