June 2019—NeoCon strengthens its position in the commercial design industry with a number of additions to the event and the venue.
“Their strategic investment is a testament to the strength and value of The Mart as a premier business location and NeoCon as an invaluable resource and hub for the commercial interiors industry,” Byron Morton, VP Leasing, NeoCon, stated.
The event welcomed a large number of new exhibitors, showrooms and showroom expansions for its 51st edition. Seven new permanent showrooms made their debut on the 11th floor, including Hightower, Kwalu, Beaufurn, Montisa, Cumberland Furniture, Emeco and HAT Contract. Larry Leete, COO, Montisa, wrote to ArchiExpo e-Magazine pre-event to give his thoughts:
Montisa is launching its brand after 30 years of being quiet in the industry. We’ve launched our new Showroom on the 11th floor (Suite 1198) and are in fact introducing 12 new products at Neocon. This is our ‘arrival on the stage’ moment, and we’re very excited.”
Several brands including Stylex, VS America, Arper, AIS, Okamura, Via Seating and Allermuir/Senator expanded and/or relocated in the building, collaborating on their new spaces with top firms. Via Seating marketing director Allie Kausar wrote to ArchiExpo e-Magazine pre-event:
We have expanded, doubling the size of our permanent showroom on floor 10, room 10-148, in order to better show our products and best accommodate the large number of guests we receive. With the transition to the permanent showroom, we’ve seen a significant improvement in the number and engagement of our visitors. We have seen greater visibility to larger project opportunities.”
This move reinforces the brand’s position as a lasting contender in the middle of the market for contract furniture seating, offering guests an opportunity to visit year-round and work on specifying projects. Masters of strengthening relationships across the field, Via Seating collaborates with external designers; the new showroom, for example, was completely redesigned by the designers at Reno Business Interiors and Whitney Architects.
On the 7th floor of the exhibition hall, over 85 new brands exhibited at this year’s event. This includes Cascando (Netherlands), Pedrali (Italy), Actiu (Spain), SilentLab (Czech Republic), INTO the Nordic Silence (Finland), Luxxbox (Australia), SF Collection (Italy), Slalom (Italy), and Tis the Italian Space (Italy). In addition, companies with expansions and news include Doug Mockett & Co. with a large 3,100-square-foot space, and Narbutas (Lithuania), which along with DeVorm (Netherlands), are back for the second year running. ROOM and Mikomax (Poland) are also back with doubled booth sizes. Julie Kohl, VP Leasing, NeoCon, stated:
“CBC Flooring will be celebrating their 100-year anniversary at NeoCon with a presence on seven, while Claridge Products and Framery will both be enjoying expanded spaces and a new location in the 6000 aisle.”
Visitors had the opportunity to discover the impactful, multi-disciplinary offering of over 100 CEU seminars from some of the most influential voices in the industry.
A new concept for the event, NeoCon introduced a series of “Inside Design” tours in partnership with IIDA, the commercial interior design association. These exclusive, designer-led tours ventured off-site, allowing attendees the opportunity to experience some of Chicago’s most innovative and celebrated new spaces with the creative minds that brought them into fruition.
This year the event also included an experiential outdoor environment spanning the length of The Mart’s South Drive called the NeoCon Plaza. Designed by Gensler Chicago and brought to life in collaboration with Forward Fruit Branded Environments, the outdoor amenity space was inspired by the idea of an “Urban Boardwalk.” It offered visitors a place to connect, collaborate, relax, recharge, unwind and enjoy the outdoors with a backdrop featuring sweeping views of the Chicago river, riverwalk and cityscape.
Along the meandering boardwalk, which was built by Skender Construction, guests used different sheltered and unsheltered spaces for work, meeting, gathering, rest, nourishment and celebration. Haworth furnished these social and ancillary spaces along with Haworth Collection brands including Cassina, Janus et Cie and Cappellini. The spaces featured an extensive range of lounge seating and height-adjustable tables as well as outdoor furnishings.
Sunbrella® Contract showed how durable and fade- resistant fabrics meet demanding commercial needs to create the extraordinary with its high-performance fabrics on the lounge seating, pillows and shade elements.
The entire footprint of the outdoor environment featured carpets made with ECONYL® regenerated and regenerable nylon created from waste including fishing nets and old carpets. All the carpet tile has been designed and supplied by Interface, made with ECONYL® yarn.
John Scott, Senior Workplace Design Strategist at Haworth stated:
In order to creatively develop solutions and reduce the stress in our work lives — go outside. The NeoCon Plaza [gave] attendees an immersive look into how these spaces can be successfully implemented.”
The idea of utilizing the outdoors to work, collaborate and improve one’s health and wellbeing was also addressed in NeoCon’s comprehensive conference program. On the morning of Monday, June 10th, Leah Bauer, IIDA, ASID, IFMA, interior design director and practice leader, of HDR lead a presentation with Assal Yavari, CID, associate director, facilities and operations of Gilead Sciences on “Outdoor Workplace Evolution” and the results of their partnered efforts to shift culture through data. That afternoon, Heiser and Paul Makovsky, editor in chief of Contract magazine, explored the topic of “The Outdoor Office: The Next Big Thing.” The conversation focused on the recent surveys indicating how biophilic design creates a more productive, creative, and happier workforce and the opportunities and challenges involved in creating outdoor workspaces—from new codes to specifying the appropriate products for these spaces and what to expect when doing so.