Ignore the waferboard panels that this new office system is made from. Designed by the omnipresent Konstantin Grcic for Vitra, the Hack office system is supposed to look rough and ready, like a shipping crate:
Grcic counters traditional desks with an innovative functional and aesthetic approach that satisfies the demands of today's high-tech companies. Such companies need to offer young university graduates an attractive, practical and creative work environment while also being able to respond to dynamic changes in their office structures.
With its raw wooden panels, Hack presents an unfinished aesthetic at first glance, like a snapshot of an experimental project under development. The system reflects the attitude of companies that similarly define themselves in terms of constant change.
But nothing from Vitra is rough and ready. This is in fact a very sophisticated, flexible and green office system.
It can be easily folded almost flat, sets up really quickly, and can be moved around on rollers.
It has a deceptively simple looking adjustment system that moves the desktop from standing to sitting desk to couch.
Looking at the manual, it is not so simple, building a cranking system that fits within the thickness of the desk and operates so smoothly. This is also clever; Vitra makes the complicated stuff at their factory. but then says that they manufacture the panels locally.
Hack is not only functional and flexible, but is also fabricated in a manner that reflects the environmental priorities of young companies: thanks to its manually operated mechanism, the production and utilisation of Hack are ecologically sustainable. In addition, the tables are manufactured on site in an energy-efficient manner, with wooden parts that are locally produced and assembled by Vitra using prefabricated metal hardware.
There are a few things I am not thrilled about; the partition height is designed around sitting, so people using standing desk mode will find themselves "prairie-dogging", with their heads above the partitions. There should probably be multiple height options. Also the ergonomics of using notebook computers are really awful, and they don't address that. But that can be fixed with external monitors.
Amazon famously gave its employees cheap desks made out of doors and 4x4 legs. Bezos said “These desks serve as a symbol of frugality and a way of thinking. It's very important at Amazon.com to make sure that we're spending money on things that matter to customers”. Other companies have been buying into the aesthetic, if not the philosophy, ever since. Vitra calls this system the Hack, and is a bit disingenuous:
The computer-related term 'hack' was coined in the late 1950s at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It describes a clever and resourceful solution devised by a hacker. A typical hack is quickly executed and often inelegant, but highly effective. It achieves the desired result without transforming the system architecture in which it is embedded, even though they often stand in contradiction to one another.
Amazon's desks were hacks; this is is in fact very well thought out, well executed and very sophisticated stuff. More at Vitra.