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Look around Vitra’s new forward-thinking space at Rolling Stock Yard

From Clerkenwell to neighbouring King’s Cross: this new, working installation is a response to the growing need for more truly flexible workspaces.

04/08/2021 5 min read

When we heard that leading furniture manufacturer, Vitra, has opened its new, forward-thinking London workspace at Rolling Stock Yard, we couldn’t resist finding out more about this relocation from Clerkenwell to neighbouring King’s Cross.

The working installation, which houses the Vitra UK team, is a response to the growing need for more flexible workspaces, that can be modified and adapted for different requirements, or completely moved to a new location, thus offering a more sustainable model for office planning. The space also showcases Vitra’s agile product portfolio as well as newly launched designs and updates, including Alcove Plus and Tyde 2 by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and the ID Chair by Antonio Citterio.

The redistribution of where we work, created by the COVID-19 pandemic, has accelerated the conversation around the subject of workplace flexibility in every sector. There has now been a shift in how businesses see the function of the workplace and an increased understanding that the office should act primarily as a place of communication and collaboration, somewhere to foster culture and inspire employees. Vitra believes that a workspace that supports such ambitions must be equally as curious and creative and therefore must be equally as flexible. The installation at Rolling Stock Yard is a working showcase of how a highly flexible office can work in both the short-term and beyond.

‘With an undisputable need to design in the most sustainable way, Rolling Stock Yard shows how we can create spaces to change and adapt with us, rather than wasting old designs that no longer fulfil our requirements, Jonathan Parr, Vitra’s Managing Director for UK and Ireland, comments. ‘We have looked at how we can make every aspect of the office more flexible, adaptable and reconfigurable, allowing the space to become a workshop, a meeting room or even an auditorium.’

We ask Jonathan to tell us a little about the new building itself and the selection process of the location.

‘The building itself was designed by Squire & Partners and is in the increasingly vibrant location of the newly developed King’s Cross area,’ he explains. ‘We are surrounded by creativity – Anthony Gormley’s sculpture studio and Mark Ronson’s studio are very close to Rolling Stock Yard.

‘We wanted to move into a space that was like the type of building our clients would typically work in. We were very keen to showcase our Dancing Office, and with the help and support of our landlord at Rolling Stock Yard, we were able to achieve this to great effect.

‘It wasn’t a protest or tactical decision to move away from Clerkenwell. We found a landlord that was very progressive in their views towards what the future office might look like, and Rolling Stock Yard felt like the perfect space to demonstrate this.’

‘30 Clerkenwell Road had been Vitra’s home for 20 years, so we felt a change was needed. We looked at many properties and, whilst Rolling Stock Yard is temporary, our permanent new home isn’t too far away.’

So what were the hopes and aspirations for this dynamic temporary space?

‘We really wanted to demonstrate a truly agile space,’ Jonathan continues. ‘Over the years I have seen so many things put on castors, but when delivered to clients they sit exactly where they had been placed on day one. We have a rule every week – everything needs to change around. It’s been great to see people’s reactions to a space that they visited just the week before looking completely different, but still using the same products. Our ‘Build Your Own Office’ events have been a really good way to engage with designers as they take you back to the analogue world of moving furniture around and not sitting at a screen visualising – but actually making it happen.

‘We had the concept for a while but finding a landlord that would let us drill 200+ fixing points into the ceiling for a temporary space was hard. Thankfully, our landlords, Greg and Mark, were so keen to see our multilane system, they allowed us to do just that. I think, sometimes, people really need to see a product to understand it.

‘Many companies are adapting to the noncommittal, unpredictable nature of our time to react to rapid changes in their markets. They are forming agile organisational structures that constantly evolve. They keep work flexible and infrastructures light and mobile, so that the office can be readily modified or moved to a new location at any moment.’

So what does Jonathan feel makes the space unique?

‘I think it’s probably one of the only spaces in London that changes week in, week out. The space is almost like an experiment, and I wouldn’t like to class it as a showroom as such.

‘With an undisputable need to design in the most sustainable way, we have to look at how we can design spaces to change and adapt with us rather than creating waste from old designs that no longer fulfill our needs.

‘I tend to be a creature of habit and sit on the same chair at the same work surface. At Rolling Stock Yard, I can’t as the space changes week-to-week, depending on the nature of a meeting or task in hand – this I really enjoy.’

The Rolling Stock Yard space, as Jonathan mentioned, features Vitra’s Dancing Office by Swiss designer and architect Stephan Hürlemann. The system has been developed to include mobile multifunctional wall elements as a tool for agile working. The Dancing Walls at Rolling Stock Yard show how offices can be quickly and easily reconfigured to suit new requirements and processes with countless possibilities.

Tyde 2, another new piece by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, has an understated aesthetic and allows the user to alternate between sitting and standing positions for desk working, which, of course, has proven health benefits. A new bracket construction makes it possible to attach desk lamps, monitor arms and other accessories anywhere along the edge of the table top, enabling versatile configurations. Sound-absorbing screens are offered in a wide spectrum of colours, and the technical components underneath the top can be concealed with different covers or cable trays made of moulded polyester fleece, which are also acoustically effective.

The ID Chair system by Antonio Citterio has been expanded with a new and highly breathable PU-foam-free seat – the first of its kind manufactured from 100% recyclable polyester fibres — also used in mattresses – as well as revised armrests, new colours and materials, and an even wider range of fabrics, supplemented with Reflect, a material made of recycled polyester, allowing customers to create configurations that are 100% recyclable. The newest member of the product family is the ID Cloud; its innovative backrest design combines a flexible membrane with a stable frame to enable a novel floating sensation for the sitter.

Key products on show from existing collections include the Rookie Office Chair, Citizen High Back Chair and Stool-Tool by Konstantin Grcic, Joyn Workstations by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Soft Work by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby and Tip Ton RE, also designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby back in 2011 and now developed by Vitra in a new version made from upcycled household waste.

Additionally, but vitally for the true agility of the space, the innovative Multilane modular system, by Visplay, is suspended from the ceiling to provide power, offering the same level of flexibility as the furniture that sits beneath it.

The Vitra installation at Rolling Stock Yard is now open, with visits by appointment only.

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