Winners of the Frame x Montana Challenge for 3DaysofDesign, the creators developed an open-door office system that simultaneously answers to the need for individuality and connection in the workday.

The idea for our challenge with Danish furniture brand Montana for the Copenhagen festival 3DaysofDesign began months before COVID-19 changed the world. Despite those drastic shifts, the focus of that challenge – agile working – has aged surprisingly well: work as we knew it is dead, and it’s more evident by the day that flexibility and fluidity will need to rise as core values. And while the pandemic has expedited this transformation, it was already in progress. Consequently we prompted designers to devise their own rendition of the open-door office, asking them to respond to the ways in which our expectations of work, and thus of the workspace, have evolved in recent years.

Using the modular Montana System as a starting point challenge winners Kathrine Barbro Bendixen of Studio KBB and Tanita Klein developed ‘Everybody In’, a spatial concept which capitalizes on user individuality and our mind-body connection with colour. Their vision – particularly pertinent as, now removed from our traditional office contexts, we realize the extent of our differences as workers – has been manufactured by Montana, in collaboration with colour guru Margrethe Odgaard. During 3DaysofDesign’s programme from 3 September to 5 September 2020 visitors will be able see Everybody In on display at Montana’s Copenhagen showroom. We speak with Bendixen and Klein about the project, and what implications it has for the future of work, in anticipation of the festival’s start.

You designed a welcoming environment that personifies objects to break apart the normal structure of the office. Can you explain what ‘normal’ structure you mean and how your project reshapes that structure?

KATHRINE BARBRO BENDIXEN: In our eyes the normal structure of an office is very anonymous: every desk is the same, every workstation is the same – it is a repetitive structure of the same furniture. But in fact, there are individual personalities in every office with different ways of working and needs. By thinking of these variations, we designed a space with room for diversity. We summed the needs up in different ‘office stereotypes’ that most people can relate to: the Greeting Optimist, the Efficient Workaholic, the Organized Know-it-all, the Lazy Lounge and the Social Club.

There are individual personalities in every office with different ways of working and needs

Being mindful of the signals and impact of colours on spaces and people was a significant aspect of this design challenge. In what way does your concept pay attention to our relationship with colour and support the activity of these personalities?

KBB: The effect of colour is very individual to each person; we intuitively chose colours for the different stereotypes of our design to underline their unique characters. For the Greeting Optimist, for example, we picked lilac and a deep red, which for us represents a positive and optimistic energy. All the ‘eyes’ of the pieces are the same neutral yellow tone, which matches a lot of the colour range.

We are both not afraid of using a lot of colour – having so many hues in one room emphasizes joy, openness and individuality. We decided on a calm background tone for the space itself, in order to bring all the colours alive and not distract from them.

Your design aims to break the ice between employees and visitors. In what way does your concept make the borders between the office and its surrounding neighbourhoods more fluid? And why do you believe that connection between workers and the public is an important aspect of the modern office?

TANITA KLEIN: By designing a room dedicated to the transition from outdoors to indoors, we have defined a new space with a new function. It is a space between the public (visitors) and the private (office). The different characters inspire visitors and employees to intuitively interact, meaning the space does not only belong to the employees anymore – it also belongs to the visitors.

Transparency and wellbeing have become more and more important for the development of healthy company culture

It is a welcoming atmosphere that invites everybody to lay on the lazy lounge or sit and work efficiently at the efficient workaholic. For modern offices, transparency and wellbeing have become more and more important for the development of healthy company culture. We created this space not only to build up a connection, but also to focus on the requirements of employees and visitors. Nowadays employers know that a healthy company culture and the wellbeing of their employees improves their performance. The ‘open-door office’ offers not only one function – work – but many, in order to encourage the mixed user’s creativity and suit their needs. It is a space to be yourself and to be comfortable.

Following the start of this challenge the pandemic hit. How do you believe the COVID-19 crisis will affect the future of workspace design?

TK: The COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences in the working world actually showed us how capable we are of working remotely, not on our desk at the office – it showed us the extent of our flexibility. This emphasizes the necessity of a fluid multifunctional space which turns the focus to sociability and wellbeing. Now, the office has become even more a space for meeting in person than a purely functional work surrounding. This evolution gives space for more individuality and sociability, like in our concept.

The office has become even more a space for meeting in person than a purely functional work surrounding

What do you hope your presentation at 3DaysofDesign will bring you?

KBB: This is the first competition we have entered as a duo and we hope that this will help us to build up credit for future spatial design projects. We also hope to inspire other offices to create spaces which reflect the individuality of their employees and visitors.