NeoCon: Haworth's Cultural Revolution

June 19, 2006
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There are more changes afoot at Haworth than the 300,000-square-foot renovation of its Holland headquarters.

With the Ideation Lab and its new Patterns office system, Haworth is positioning itself as more of a service provider than a manufacturing brand. The two launches, both winners of Silver Best of NeoCon awards, enable the company to customize its offerings to not only a company’s space, but its culture.

The Ideation Lab is powered by the Canvas computer animation software, a repurposed version of Configura Sverige’s CET Designer space-planning tool. The software allows Haworth to create a three-dimensional image of a client’s space at any point in the design-build process, and then apply three different floor plans focused on different culture types.

“We’re interested as a company in any phase a building is in,” said Haworth Chairman Dick Haworth. “But we can add a tremendous amount of value if we are involved with a customer from the time they are asking what kind of culture they have and how they can use that to be more efficient.”

In essence, Haworth is hoping its customers will design buildings in what may one day be known as “the Haworth way” — sustainable design, movable walls, raised floors, natural light, and customized to the culture of the workplace.

Much of this philosophy arose through internal research of Haworth’s own culture, which led, eventually, to a decision to influence cultural change through the renovation.

The company has identified four types of workplace cultures through a University of Michigan model that has evaluated 10,000 companies over the past decade. As noted by the manager of Ideation and Design, Jeff Reuschel, the virtual world is the only place in which a customer will be able to stand in all of those environments simultaneously.

Haworth soon discovered that it had no product that could be adapted to serve all four cultures — hierarchal, clan, market and adhocracy. Enter: Patterns.

Though Patterns was second to Herman Miller’s My Studio in the office systems competition at NeoCon, it is hard to classify the launch as a system. Its applications span from systems furniture to private offices to architecture. In the Haworth showroom, Patterns was used to create a waterfall and a queen-sized bed. Practically, it can be a desk, bench, table, bookshelf, system or just about anything an interior designer can dream up.

Designed in partnership with Italian shop Studio & Partners, Patterns is built around an L-shaped architectural component called “the bridge.” Available in lengths specified to one-eighth of an inch, the bridge is wired for data and power and fits seamlessly with the company’s Compose system and Enclose movable walls.

“When our customers decide they need to change cultures, we can show them the opportunities,” said Haworth CEO Franco Bianchi. “We can help them move from the traditional, classical world of the panel — which we love — to a more different and unique environment.”

According to Strategic Design Manager Iain Thorp, Patterns should allow Haworth entry into the urban high-rise market it had long been denied.

“In these design-driven environments, the attitude is that you can’t have dignity with a panel system,” he said.    

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