When Boston Consulting Group (BCG) began planning the design of their new 170,000 squre-foot headquarters, their desire was for an intensely innovative workplace environment—one grounded in serene and calming elements—that efficiently accommodate a large number of employees while honoring the need for personal space. The Harbor Stone System was the direct response to this desire.
The furnishing system’s name, Harbor Stone, is taken directly from the smooth, rounded beach stones which guided the design’s evolution. Graceful, functional, and flexible, the human-centered system is the antithesis of rigid rows of office benching that seat people shoulder-to-shoulder, often without visual or acoustical privacy. In welcome contrast, Harbor Stone provides desk residents a safe harbor within their larger workspace, one that offers distinct, individual space, shelter from visual distractions, and a dampening of nearby noise.
Inspired by smooth beach stones, the curved desk units can be configured – and reconfigured into amorphous clusters that are more efficient than linear benching and infinitely more flexible. Compared to orthogonal benching, it accommodates more desks within the same square footage and especially lends itself to irregularly shaped floor plans for efficient and flexible space use. And, unlike the majority of today’s workplace benching systems — in response to BCG’s desire for workplace design that supports staff wellness — it is designed as a sit-to-stand desk, offering users a more healthful environment.
Design Refinement + Engineering Process
The Elkus Manfredi team initially reached out to Studio Other as its engineering design partner to help complete the desk system. The primary goal was for a flexible and minimal solution for connecting it to power and data supplies, as well as to refine it overall for fabrication.
The full development of the desk system’s design was a true collaboration between the client, BCG, and the two design team partners, Elkus Manfredi and Studio Other. Through a series of full-scale desk mock-ups, tested by the client team, the design team members finalized the shape of the desktop, the depth and width of its curved privacy screen, and the scale of the Power Beam’s components.
Power Beam Cabling System
The organic form of system made power distribution the biggest challenge, but eventually also the biggest success. As smartly designed as the Harbor Stone desk itself, the Power Beam Cabling System provides power and data and supports infinite desk configurations. Power and data, brought from the floor into a hub, is then distributed along the Power Beam cabling system spanning the hubs. The beam can be repositioned at 15 degree increments around the central cam, allowing for multiple desk configurations. Felt sleeves connect the modular electrical system from the power beam to each desk while providing configuration flexibility. The sleeve then feeds into a cable tray under the desk where cables are neatly tucked into the tray, eliminating the visual clutter of dangling wires. Additionally, a convenient cleat is placed under the desk to store personal items.
The system is inherently long-lasting, composed of 70% recycled materials and requiring no paint, cutting down on off-gassing. A significant amount of the desk system is steel which contains 25-35% recycled content material. In addition, each metal component of the desk fits perfectly on a sheet of steel to fully utilize material and minimize leftover remnants. The integrated privacy panel also eliminates the requirement for a traditional furniture spine or additional end panels.
The Harbor Stone System, true to its design inspired by shapes found in nature, incorporates tones and veneers in a color palette drawn from the natural world. Eight different veneers were developed, some sourced from Africa and some locally. Two natural wood veneers — Walnut and Black Limba — combine with six reconstituted engineered veneers for a warm, natural palette. Each cluster of Harbor Stone desks includes a selection of these veneers, creating subtle visual variety.
Designed to nestle together in graceful, organically-shaped groups, the Harbor Stone System’s way of combining personal workspace within inviting groupings restores a much-needed sense of humanity to the workplace. These groupings have received loud cheers from BCG staff for its paradigm-shifting balance of individual personal workspace within a larger intensely collaborative environment—a true welcoming, working harbor.