Haworth Showroom

July 12, 2005
High-Tech Space Showcases Company’s Best


Project Quick Facts

Cost: $85,000 (AV equipment and labor; $5 million for entire project)
Award Winners:
Intaglio Visual Arts and Technologies
Perkins + Will Architects/EvaMaddox Branded Environments

By Christina Nelson

Over the years, Haworth has evolved from a small workstation supplier to a leader in the office furnishings market, specializing in flexible, inspirational, solutions-driven work environments. In 2004, the company decided it was time to acknowledge its evolution by introducing a new brand strategy and undertaking a complete renovation of its 29,000-square-foot flagship showroom in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

A small but vital element in the renovation was the addition of a glass-enclosed display area at the showroom’s entrance, which would serve a dual purpose:

  • It would be a dynamic medium for introducing selected new products.
  • It would convey the essence of Haworth’s holistic approach to workplaces, which is centered on people and ideas.

Dubbed the “jewel box,” the roughly square 24-foot enclosure features imagery and graphics displayed in a seamless loop on two 8-foot-square screens that are aligned with the showroom’s front glass wall. The back-to-back screen surfaces, which simultaneously display the same image outside and inside the showroom, are on either side of an artificially lit “glow wall.” As the imagery moves from right to left, it appears to flow through the glow wall. The graphics and typography are perfectly aligned with the signage etched into the showroom’s glass front. The video content is programmed to enhance and complement imagery displayed elsewhere in the facility.

Strategically positioned to engage and attract passersby, the jewel box and its contents were conceived by a design team consisting of the Chicago architectural firm of Perkins + Will/EvaMaddox Branded Environments. The display area’s technology design, engineering, and specifications were the work of Intaglio Visual Arts and Technologies in Grand Rapids, MI. The custom exhibit design firm xibtz, also located in Grand Rapids, was contracted to build this and other displays in the showroom.

Eileen Jones, a principal with Perkins + Will, worked closely with the architectural group, led by Eva Maddox, and the AV experts from Intaglio to communicate Haworth’s messages about flexible work styles and restorative experiences in the workplace.

“Our idea was to suggest the concept rather than tell it,” Jones explains. “By incorporating messages into video, we tried to capture the people aspect, offer inspiration for design, and demonstrate the performance of a product.” But the message, she says, “is not just about product. It’s also about space and how one can personally take control of his or her environment; it’s about finding the right tools for the right task.”

One side of the video wall represents the notion of work; the other projects restorative types of places in which to recharge. Together they present an encapsulated version of the showroom. The 3- by 5-inch miniscreens above the meditative “rock garden,” for example, discuss sustainability and reappear elsewhere to touch on different themes. Ergonomically designed furnishings and sail-shaded task lighting hint at the selection of new products to be found inside. The elevated glass floor, above which the video screens and furnishings seem to float, lends another high-tech note to the entry area and draws attention to Haworth’s innovative raised floor system.

“People think that a raised floor is just for cooling computers or carrying wires,” Jones observes, “but it can offer so much more.”

In the showroom, monitors embedded in the floor offer visitors welcome messages, often tailored to a particular client, or information. Other openings highlight the features of individualized climate controls at each workspace. Technology aside, the floor system also contributes to the aesthetics and restorative experience of the overall space by serving as the support for a large 6-inch-deep reflecting pool that’s visible from nearly everywhere in the showroom.

Translating Message to Medium

In the entry display area, the task of connecting client and architect messages to the video medium fell primarily to Peter Larson, Intaglio’s founder and chief creative officer. The double screen and glow wall configuration evolved as an alternative to the design team’s initial proposal for an 8-foot-high screen to be wrapped around all four sides of an existing monolith (pillar) that concealed plumbing lines.

“There were too many limitations to that scenario, both in cost and implementation,” Larson recalls.

In a solution that achieves a similar effect, each of the two 8-foot-square Ultralume two-way projection surfaces is sandwiched between layers of glass; the glass panels are affixed to either side of the 2-foot-wide glow wall. The screen material allows half of the light to pass through while the other half is reflected back so that images can be seen equally well on both sides of the screen. The glow wall is made of a frosted acrylic. It is lit from behind, creating the illusion that the imagery flows through it. Larson worked with exhibit contractor Doug Bosma to devise a custom framework 18 feet wide by 8 feet high to contain the projection area. Two video projectors mounted discreetly just below the finished ceiling plane deliver DVD content and are synchronized to produce seamless animated images across the surfaces.

“Since the screens go right down into a track in the glass floor, we knew the finished size wouldn’t be exactly square and we could end up with a band at the ceiling or the image ‘falling off’ into the room at the sides,” says Larson. To counter such problems, he employed an Image Anyplace video scaler to correct the geometry so that DVD content matched the exact dimensions of the screens. “We were able to align the edges precisely with no gaps, no black stripes, no overscan,” he says.

The DVD content was produced with images, artwork, and typography provided by Perkins + Will to coordinate with similar graphics used throughout the facility and to match the tone of Haworth’s messages. The production process was intricately tied to the display size and shape and carefully integrated into the architecture. It was especially important that the etched signage on Haworth’s glass façade be in perfect alignment with the typography of the video content. “Visually our graphics ‘come out’ of theirs, giving the area a very cohesive feeling,” Larson observes.

Because the focus of the display area is visual interaction, that portion of the design contains no audio, says Intaglio principal Kirk Grimshaw, who was responsible for designing the five zoned audio systems in the showroom itself. The renovated Haworth Chicago showroom opened its doors in June 2004. Shortly afterward, it was named the NeoCon ’04 Showroom of the Year, and it was one of just five designs to be honored by the International Interior Design Association for uncommon quality and innovation in brand-driven design.

A Green Approach

In addition to showcasing the concept of workspaces and the full integration of interior architectural systems, Haworth went a step further by merging its clean design aesthetic with high “green” performance. The Chicago showroom incorporates the company’s GREENGUARD certified products and Forest Stewardship Certified Wood finishes and products containing post-industrial, post-consumer content. The green design approach includes these features:

  • Separate low-energy, high-air-quality HVAC equipment that moves air through an efficient raised-floor system and enables individual control at each work area.
  • Natural light and views throughout, as well as the use of comfortable levels of general ambient lighting systems and individually controlled task lighting at each workspace, resulting in lower power consumption.
  • Reuse of materials salvaged and repurposed from the prior showroom.
  • Incorporating rapidly renewable materials, such as wheat-board substrate and cork flooring.
  • Integrating “true fluid” product, allowing full adaptability and reconfiguration and the adoption of a “reuse, rewire, retask” philosophy.

“With its comprehensive approach to the workplace, recombinant flexible systems, and new array of product lines, Haworth is in the forefront of sustainable design,” says J.D. McKibben, a senior architect with Perkins + Will.

In fact, the Chicago showroom is one of only 104 projects nationwide chosen to participate in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED CI pilot program, and it has qualified for gold-level certification. (Actual certification is still pending.) “Not only does this project demonstrate alternative ideas of ‘work’ and ‘restore,’” says McKibben, “it also addresses methods for resource preservation, waste elimination, and cost reduction.”



Display Mounts


Control System




Distribution Amps


Monitor & Ceiling Speakers

Middle Atlantic

Equipment Racks


XL5950U Video Projectors


Optix Image Anyplace Video Scaler


Ultralume Screen Projection Surface



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