Chicago is one of the world’s great cities. Its dramatic lake and river setting, its magnificent architecture and its raw energy inspire the locals and businesses to achieve great things. People work and play very hard. Competition is fierce both in business as in the way the people relate to each other, and befits a city heavily influenced by waves of immigration down the ages. Apart from somewhat overly aggressive and noisy driving, if there is friction, you don’t sense it and it isn’t obvious. Most locals seem genuinely open and friendly, including to strangers, and happy to get on with their lives without troubling others. Perhaps they’re all being buoyed up by the great street music which is everywhere.
The city’s weather however would test the patience of a saint. It runs to extremes, at least so it seems for those from temperate climes. Hot and humid summers and very harsh winters do their best to stress out a Chicagoan’s famously good humor. Unusually this year, visitors to Neocon weren’t treated to endless days of blue sky and unbroken sunshine and balmy summer evenings. Only those stalwarts who stayed over until Wednesday were able to enjoy fine weather; the rest of the crowds who left in their droves on Tuesday evening or even earlier, experienced miserably dull drizzle and positively chilly temperatures.
The show was great on so many levels. There seemed to be many more visitors than in recent years and the atmosphere was brilliant. Noisy, crowded to extremes, pushing and shoving, laughter, and banter of old friends bumping into each other, a year after they’d last met. Officially, the show opens on Monday and closes on Wednesday but increasingly, Sunday has become busier and busier with previews and VIP presentations as well as parties in the evening. The tempo, day and night, continued frenetically until Tuesday, after which, judging by the almost empty showrooms, corridors and elevators on Wednesday, everyone had collapsed somewhere in a heap.
Changes last year restricted the temporary show space so that it is now housed only on floor seven. That area was much improved this year, and the high demand for the space allowed the organisers to be selective, raising the exhibitor standards and improving the visitor experience. The heart of the show remains, however, the permanent showrooms on the three main floors – 3, 10 and 11, especially 3, where most of the space is taken up by the massive showrooms of Steelcase, Herman Miller, Haworth and the HNI companies. This year, Steelcase had further expanded their showroom space with several new areas, including the WorkCafé which used products from the Steelcase, Coalesse and Turnstone brands, as well as independent partners, and came together to create informal spaces to support people when they need to collaborate, socialize, focus or rejuvenate.