USM and UNStudio showcase Haller modular furniture in Milan

USM and UNStudio explore "third space" between home and office with Haller modular furniture

Haller modular furniture can be used to create a "third space" between the workplace and the home, say Thomas Dienes of USM and Ren Yee of UNStudio in this movie produced by Dezeen during Milan design week.

For the second consecutive year, Swiss furniture company USM enlisted Dutch architecture office UNStudio to create a booth at Salone del Mobile for the exhibition of its modular products.

The exhibition explored how informal environments – from cafes and hotel lobbies, to hotel lobbies and parks – are increasingly becoming places of work. Dienes refers to these as the third space.

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
UNStudio designed USM's Salone del Mobile booth

Called Making Places, the exhibition was divided into four zones, delineated by USM's signature Haller furniture system.

Originally designed in 1963 by Swiss architect Fritz Haller and engineer Paul Schärer, the system comprises three fundamental components: steel tubes, ball-shaped fixtures and adjustable connecting inserts.

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
The booth showed Haller modular furniture used in informal workspaces

Once assembled, the basic Haller frame can be scaled up and reconfigured according to the requirements of the user, as USM demonstrated at last year's Salone del Mobile by housing its booth within a giant Haller grid.

This year, Haller units featured throughout the installation but were customised with additional USM products such as soundproof panels and table tops, in order to create four distinct zones.

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
A wall of houseplants symbolised growth

Each zone attempted to exemplify one of four key qualities that USM identified as conducive to a "thriving" working environment, Dienes told Dezeen. The areas were based around themes of growing, meeting, reflecting and learning.

The growing-themed zone was characterised by a tall, open-faced shelving unit adorned with houseplants. "Plants were one of the natural elements we wanted to bring into the workplace," Yee said.

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
Ren Yee of UNStudio told Dezeen that nature should be incorporated into workspaces

A public-facing corner demarcated by yellow closed-faced shelving units created the meeting zone. Within this space an island of cabinets formed a table around which visitors could congregate and meet with USM staff.

"The meeting space was the first encounter between visitors and USM people," said Yee.

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
A meeting area brought visitors together with USM staff

In the reflection zone, mirrors were inserted into a Haller frame at varying angles to create an art installation that reflected passing visitors.

"Here, you can step back and find a place to ponder and contemplate," said Yee.

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
An installation that played on the idea of reflection created an area for contemplation

Shelving units with perforated red panels displayed models of selected Haller configurations, whilst also enclosing the area dedicated to learning.

USM identified these four quintessential ingredients following the research it conducted at the Salone del Mobile in 2018.

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
A learning area was enclosed by red display cabinets

The brand had asked visitors questions about their domestic and professional work environment preferences.

It was these responses that revealed rhw trend towards working within a third space.

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
USM conducted research that revealed preference for working in a "third space"

"When we think about this area between home and work, it is not something that can be created and designed top down, it's more the idea that we offer a frame," said Dienes. "And within this frame people will go on designing the place by themselves."

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
Visitors were invited to apply stickers to the surfaces of the booth

Visitors to the booth were invited to apply brightly coloured stickers to its surfaces, which Dienes said expressed USM's ethos of customisability and collaboration.

This movie was filmed by Dezeen in Milan for USM.

More images

USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth
USM and UNStudio Salone del Mobile booth