Designing for the workplace of the future (with Robin Rizzini of Metrica)
Robin Rizzini, chief designer and partner at Metrica, has extensive experience in creating furniture for international brands that are seeking Italian design sensibilities in their products for the global market. Now, in partnership with Fantoni, Metrica presents Woods, a collection of tables for the workspace that use the timeless natural material in a sleek, contemporary design we’ve already described at length.
Intrigued, we reached out to Rizzini for more insight to the development of the innovative collection.
What was the beginning of the collaboration between Fantoni and Metrica?
ROBIN RIZZINI: My business partner Lucio Leonelli [managing partner at Metrica] and I met with Fantoni at Salone del Mobile 2016, and we decided to start a cooperation based on mutual interest. Fantoni soon after shared a very precise brief on a universal height-adjustable leg. The rest is… Woods.
How did the design process unfold between the two companies?
We both had a very clear understanding of our roles and the contributions that both parties could bring to the table. At the beginning of the creative process, we shared market research that was very helpful in understanding what we liked and did not like about the currently available height-adjustable tables.
We then started developing a few concepts, with the required technology and possible functions of each form. The rest is pretty much traditional practice: drawings, prototypes, adjustment, then drawings, prototypes, refinement, until we were both happy enough to sign, seal, and deliver it to the next Salone.
The ability to stand for a few hours rather than sitting will provide a whole new perspective on the way we work
Wood has always been very important as a material. Firstly, because Fantoni means wood. Secondly, because we always liked to see the wooden leg as a connection to the earth – especially in the height-adjustable version, where it can feel like the table is growing like a tree.
Also, it’s a reinforcement of a positive health message: when more wood is revealed, it means that you are using the table in a standing position, and your whole body becomes thankful for the wood.
Did you first approach the design of Woods from the desired function, or the aspired form?
Both. We didn’t want the technical function to win over the form but rather work in harmony. It has been a challenge, but I think we reached a good balance.
Where do you think workspaces are headed, in terms of design? What will the office of tomorrow look like?
There is a large debate about this. Today the trend is to see the workspace as a cosy place that looks like a residential environment. This is perfectly acceptable assuming that the functions and performance of the workplace are maintained, as these are very different needs from those of a home. The office of tomorrow? Difficult to tell. We shifted from open spaces to cubicles to open spaces again, and now it is all about creating a room for collaboration, but with private space at hand.
Designers have to be listeners and problem solvers
Despite all the current buzz about remote working and freelancing, I don’t see people working more from home when going to a (pleasant) working environment to relate and interact with different people is the foundation of a healthy social life. So, in the midterm, the answer is a good balance of collaborative and concentrated environments for people to switch between.
And how do you think designers should respond to this?
Well, designers have to be listeners and problem solvers. In my experience in spatial planning, a large part of the job is listening to people’s needs and feelings about the office space before putting pencil and paper on the drawing table. Sometimes designers and architects try to impose a vision that is aesthetically impeccable, but far from what people are looking for. Again, a good balance between artistic idealism and realism is a clever way to go.
Wood has always been very important as a material
So where does Woods come in?
Woods consists of different designs for different applications, and is able to answer the contemporary needs of the office environment. Personally, I’d like to see offices with more fixed and adjustable tables working together, as we all work on numerous tasks throughout the day, each with different requirements. The ability to work for a few hours while standing rather than sitting, including during meetings, will provide a whole new perspective on the way we work. Unfortunately, that cultural shift has yet to reach every workspace in the world.