How would you design an open-door office? This was a question we, together with Danish furniture brand Montana, posed to designers and architects around the world. Workspaces that break down boundaries are helping redefine the future of work – so we partnered with the company to develop a design challenge to give creatives an opportunity to conceive, and see to completion, a forward-looking vision for a fluid office lobby based on the modular Montana System. Now, we are pleased to announce the winning spatial concept, which will be built and showcased at the brand’s showroom during Copenhagen’s 3daysofdesign in September: ‘Everybody In’, by Kathrine Barbro Bendixen of Studio KBB and Tanita Klein.

‘Everybody In’ uses the Montana System’s flexible furniture components to build five visual ‘personalities’, interpreted into faces, within one room. There’s the ‘Greeting Optimist’, ‘Lazy Lounge’, ‘Efficient Workaholic’, ‘Organized Know-it-all’ and the ‘Social Club’. Divided by function, each sport a unique colour combination while the rest of the space is kept to one shade, to emphasize the individuality of the pieces. Barbro Bendixen and Klein’s aim? To create an open-to-all, welcoming environment that personifies objects to break apart the normal structure of the office – ‘or even the ice between employees and visitors’.

Being mindful of the signals and impact of the colours on spaces and people was a significant aspect of this design challenge

Copenhagen-based colour and textile designer Margrethe Odgaard (featured in our upcoming issue, Frame 134) worked with Montana to create the palette that gives life to the space. Consisting of 40 water-based hues and two veneers, the sensory-led range was formulated with attention to our inherent mind-body connection with colour. All designers who participated in the challenge were asked utilize the palette, considering its potential effect on mind-set and productivity. ‘For decades we have been influenced by greys and whites,’ says Odgaard, ‘and the blue light that comes from the screens of our many devices. I believe our bodies crave stimulation and our senses long to be met by experiences that calm us down or quicken our heart rate. Being mindful of the signals and impact of the colours on spaces and people was a significant aspect of this design challenge.’

We talk to Odgaard about why Studio KBB and Tanita Klein were the clear winners, other projects that introduced impressive concepts and what designers should be considering when imagining future fluid workspaces.

Studio KBB and Tanita Klein's black-and-white renders for 'Everybody In'.

The message as I see it centres on inclusiveness in the workspace

Why were you and the Montana team drawn to the work of Studio KBB and Tanita Klein? How did ‘Everybody In’ stand out compared to other submissions?

MARGRETHE ODGAARD: The shortlist was made up of many bold and interesting proposals – however, the concept by Studio KBB really stands out in the way that it explores the playfulness of Montana and the way that it activates the dimensions in the colour palette. It embodies humour and seriousness at the same time. Functionality, storytelling and aesthetics are all intertwined into one thought-provoking concept that’s executed well from concept to detail. The message as I see it centres on inclusiveness in the workspace. We can make room for all kinds of personalities – we need them in order to create a dynamic office environment where it is fun to work.

Why is the proposal a good match with the brand and the 3daysofdesign platform?

The proposal was the only one that managed to work on all levels. It works well as a spatial concept – it divides a room into multifunctional zones, accentuating the idea of the fluid office. Additionally, the palette chosen has a perfect balance between warm and cold hues and vibrant and pale shades. Moreover, this was the only project that zoomed in on the wealth of possibilities embodied in the Montana System and used the colours to enhance details and tell a story with warmth, bringing playfulness into the process and to the spectator and user in the scenario. 

The colour render and hand drawing for the 'Organized Know-it-all' personality piece.

Which other projects appealed to you and Montana?

‘Atarashii Arbejdsplad’ by Kathryn Larsen and William Qian – they divided the room into pools of strong, vibrant colours and used the products in tall, expressive sculptures, creating an interesting flow in the space. ‘Unity by Eva’ González de Yanes, Dylana Kim and Shin Young Kang did too. They had an idea for a single intricate yet multifunctional sculpture with the storage modules stacked and suspended in a subtle and light palette. The room was envisioned as a dark, green backdrop, bringing in a feel of the outdoors inside.

Studio Emily Broom’s proposal really stood out to me – the room is enveloped in dark and dense shades that serve as a backdrop for the colours Cumin and Camomile, in compositions that really accentuate the ceiling height and create many interesting views when you move through the room. The atmosphere is soothing and the furniture in those hues light up the functions – almost as little sparks of hope in the darkness. 

Top to bottom: 'Lazy Lounge' colour render, 'Lazy Lounge' hand drawing, 'Cheering' colour render (one of the three units for 'Social Club') and 'The Efficient Workaholic' hand drawing.

Designing for ‘togetherness’ is still very important even in the time of the coronavirus

What should all designers be considering the process of creating fluid workspaces?

Fluidity in this context does to me not mean dissolving every spatial boundary there is, but instead accommodating the body and minds of different people, allowing for their eccentricities in a balanced way. Designing for ‘togetherness’ is still very important even in the time of the coronavirus. Thinking in terms of flexibility is something that designers should be considering – spatial and functional flexibility – to create an ambience that is calming and soothing rather than complex and confusing.

Postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, 3daysofdesign will take place from 3-5 September 2020, in Copenhagen. Stay tuned for more news about the Frame x Montana Challenge.