Furniture is not always used as intended. Take, for example, the simple bench: It can be used to seat people, expand storage or divide spaces. Designers understand this – they may conceptualize pieces for residential or commercial spaces, but when it comes to real-world usage, furniture can be used for myriad purposes. It can evolve.
So, too, can concepts. When Nienkämper first launched Cern with Toronto-based design studio Fig40, they envisioned it as something simple: it was a table. A sleek, functional table that’s inspired by minimal yet robust harvest tables. Power travels in a sealed loop around the table’s perimeter – it is named for the CERN Large Hadron Collider, which similarly accelerates electrons in a continuous loop.
Fig40’s Lee Fletcher, who designed the piece, said the Cern table had similar structural characteristics to Nienkämper’s award-winning Metronome table – only built at a smaller scale. Thanks to the power routed around the table’s perimeter and its handsome glass finishing, the Cern table could have fit easily into a compact collaborative workspace. But when marketing the table, Klaus Nienkämper saw another opportunity: He saw it as a desk.
“In the development of this project, we’d throw in a rendering of Cern being used as a desk. It seemed to be an appropriate scale to be used as a desk,” says Fletcher. “Klaus was compelled by that. That was where the real opportunity was – as a desk with a glass top in a private office.
“It wasn’t really intended to be an office table from the outset, but that’s where it’s had its largest impact.”
Indeed, Cern would became a home-office item, but that’s not where its evolution stops. While showcasing the table in a Chicago showroom, Nienkämper noticed the positive reception Cern was receiving – and approached Fletcher about designing an entire collection around the table’s design philosophy.
“We spent the rest of that summer conceiving what the elements of that collection could be,” says Fletcher. “What’s the spirit of Cern? What are the components, the signature visual elements of it? How would those translate into an appropriate collection of pieces?”
We know the answer now: It’s a versatile furniture collection, one built equally for private offices or open-concept workplaces. Anchored by a credenza, the Cern Collection orbits outward with shelving, a desk jutting out at a 90-degree angle – “a credenza is a natural place to hang a desktop from,” adds Fletcher, “it’s a very classic format” – and a height-adjustable table adding a more contemporary feel.
“The scale of the shelving unit is quite architectural in size,” says Fletcher. “In larger, open offices, they can be oriented to create various levels of division. The large shelves can have an open or closed back… so you can have whiteboards on the back side, or it can form the perimeter of a more casual sitting area.”
The Cern Collection has little in common with unwieldy, outdated office furniture systems. Much like the modern office – which tends to be built around openness, collaboration and flexibility – the collection has evolved into something effortlessly versatile. It’s made to tailor a range of needs, from open-concept offices, collaborative spaces or residential settings. Better yet, it can accommodate each use without being dismantled.
Fletcher notes that Nienkämper’s Cern system, which won a NeoCon Silver Award earlier this year, was designed to evoke a sense of calm – and those aren’t empty platitudes. “If there’s a lot of visual elements, it can create discord,” he says. “We tried to create unity in all of the elements.
“There are a number of natural touchpoints when you sit down. There’s a place to put your keys, your phone, there’s a coat rack, there’s a series of desk accessories. When you sit down, you’re at home.”
This content was published by Azure on behalf of Nienkämper.