Workers of the World, Unite

Steelcase’s new modular office system encourages paper pushers to cozy up.

While technology has radically altered the way we work, the office system has remained remarkably unchanged. The basic panel-based cubicle still consists of a desktop, some type of storage, and pinup walls that distinguish your space from that of your neighbor. It’s serviceable but dreary—and it hardly responds to the needs and habits of the twenty-first-century office worker.

Steelcase’s new customizable system, which debuts this month at NeoCon, offers something more. Noting the trend toward open, team-oriented workplaces—exemplified by Google’s sprawling campuslike headquarters—Steelcase designed C:scape to accommodate spontaneous collaboration. It features kinked desk legs, for instance, that won’t get in the way of a coworker’s knees as he pulls up a chair to show you the latest YouTube clip—um, Power­Point presentation. Best of all, it looks nice. Elegant, decorative touches such as oak privacy screens, floating transparent cabinetry, and Corian work surfaces create an environment that’s more akin to a high-end Italian kitchen than the stage set of The Office. Here Steelcase’s manager of design, John Hamilton, gets down to the brass tacks of his new furniture collection.

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