Watch: Haworth to debut Social Spaces at NeoCon

Haworth is shining a spotlight on the social side of work life — and the need for privacy solutions — at NeoCon this year.

The Holland-based maker of adaptable workspace solutions will take part in the 51st annual NeoCon, the commercial design industry’s premier North American trade show.

NeoCon is set for June 10-12 at Merchandise Mart, aka The Mart, a 4-million-square-foot art deco building on the river in downtown Chicago that houses permanent showrooms and 500 exhibitors from around the contract furnishings world on 10 of the building’s 25 floors.

In addition to its usual permanent indoor showroom space, Haworth this year is adding a separate display room for its Haworth Collection, a family of brands that includes BuzziSpace, Cappellini, Cassina, GAN, Poltrona Frau and more.

Combined with its indoor presence in The Mart, Haworth will be the exclusive furniture supplier for an approximately 60,000-square-foot “giant pop-up” activation of the Chicago Riverwalk bordering The Mart that will be filled with Haworth products outfitting restaurants, bars, outdoor workspaces and indoor work lounges under tents.

“We more than doubled our real estate this year because we added collection space, which is brand new, and we added this outdoor space, which is bigger than our indoor spaces,” said Kurt VanderSchuur, director of global brands at Haworth. 

“You don’t even have to go into the building to experience us. … We’re taking our story outside, which is very new to us. We’ve never done this before in a super-large way.”

Social Spaces

Julie Smith, public relations and communications manager for Haworth, said the opportunity to do an outdoor pop-up fit perfectly with the focus of Haworth’s 2019 NeoCon display: Social Spaces.

Social Spaces is a term Haworth trademarked that refers to “inspiring spaces where people gather, connect and refresh — indoors or out.” 

The idea is to provide options for productivity and collaboration while pushing back against the sameness, sterility and lack of privacy in an open-plan office.

Historically, the term “ancillary furnishings” has been used to describe environments Haworth now defines as Social Spaces — such as a break area with lounge seating, a café with benching or individual round tables, bar-height furniture and high-top tables, lobby areas, booth seating, sheltered cubbies and more.

VanderSchuur said the idea isn’t new — although some of the pieces on display will be — but it’s a term Haworth chose to trademark because of its relatability and resonance for customers.

“Social spaces are usually where it’s the opposite of heads-down work, where I want to go into a private office to have a meeting, or I’m going to do heads-down/concentrative work in a touchdown space,” VanderSchuur said. “Social spaces are for gathering. They can be for two people to gather. They can be for 50.”

The outdoor pop-up space at NeoCon will put on display combinations of possibilities from Haworth’s catalog that fit with the definition of Social Spaces.

The main indoor showroom — which Smith said had “a huge traffic flow problem” last year, with visitors blocking the guest services desk — also has been redesigned with Social Spaces, so people will be drawn to the seating instead of standing together in clumps.

First, VanderSchuur said, the showroom will have a large café that serves illy coffee, an Italian brand, and the café will contain bar, dining and lounge seating “in all different kinds of applications.”

Secondly, the new showroom will let Haworth clients come with their consultants and design firms to do “charrette,” or the process of drafting solutions to design problems. This year, the showroom has space for those discussions to take place that will include sample materials for clients to see and touch.

“We created a space that’s more collaborative and social about materials that’s not just for a designer because clients care about this stuff,” VanderSchuur said. “The materiality reflects your own persona of your company or your brand.”