Office Gossip

Bene’s Middle Eastern office showcases the best of the brand and promotes the future of technology-led designs

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  May 7, 2006

|~|Bene-Body1.jpg|~||~|The Bene brand is associated with functionality of office furniture and efficient layouts. Its strategy includes a vast amount of work and research on realisation of space, integrating technology and office ergonomics, so when its Middle East showroom opened in Dubai Airport Free Zone at the end of last year, CID visited to see if Bene practices what it preaches.

The space is designed to be a working office complete with segregated directors offices, open plan workstations and a boardroom. However, it has a dual purpose as a showroom displaying mock-up seating and meeting arrangements for clients so a clever planning of space was implemented.
Owned by Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority, the building is modern, boasting large glass windows so lots of natural light floods into the offices. This is supplemented by clean white walls, a pale beige carpet called ‘Less’ (available locally through Carpet Land) and glass partitions between the offices, making the space appear much larger and lighter.

CitySpace was involved as fitout contractor, as well as completing the ceiling lighting design for the showroom. Between the two companies, the whole process from design, to fit out, to Bene moving in was extremely rapid. Work started on the 15th October 2005, and it finished on the 30th October 2005 when Bene moved in.

The two offices of managing director, John Messent and sales director, Ahmed Kandil are centrally positioned on the floorplan. Whilst one side of their offices is sound-proofed glass, between their rooms is a partition system that matches the furniture. In the past, when Bene were supplying clients with office furniture solutions it was often asked to do partitions with the furniture, so it developed a ‘working wall’ – you can hang things on it, fabric or veneer panels, which are very versatile, not your standard monoblock or bioblock. It is a furnishing item as well; giving a finish to a room that plain walls or aluminium dividers do not.
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Messent explains: “By adding fabric, noise levels can be dramatically altered. Melamine or veneer lacquer reflects sound whereas fabric absorbs it. Using heavy fabric, particularly cord or velvets can cut down on noise reflection. You could even spray the fabric with acoustic spray for additional sound reduction.” Some of the partitions can reduce noise down from the normal office noise level of 70 decibels down to the level of a living room (around 40).

As one would expect from specialists in office furniture, Messent and Kandil’s offices display state-of-the-art ergonomic solutions. Kandil talks us through the evolution of office furniture: “Major changes in office furniture have come about through the advent of technology. Laptops and mobile phones have changed the way offices work now; they are more individual.” The wireless office has had a massive impact, both on productivity, and also in the actual physicality of an office.” Kandil continues, “the actual shape of the desk has changed too — desks used to be rectangular, 140x60cms, then they became L shaped to accommodate deep monitors. Now though, with more people using flat screens and laptops, desks are getting smaller again.”

Also ergonomic advances such as monitor arms and sliding trays for the keyboards, which help the user maintain the 90 degree angle are becoming popular. Other components include secret drawers, which Messent has chosen for his desk; the sliding top hides hidden compartments complete with a smart key lock, yet another example of offices linking to technology. The chairs in Messent’s office are by German manufacturer, Wilkhahan, while in the reception area the sofas are by Brühl and Sippold.

Kandil’s office has the Compact desktop, an exclusive design containing 114 sheets of laminate or melamine, “it is highly pressured and as a result is five times harder than any other worktop,” claims Kandil. He accompanies this assertion by taking a mallet out of his cupboard and smacking it down on the edge of his desk, and true to his word, no mark is visible. Such strength and durability is ideal for public spaces, as the designers of Sheikh Rashid Hospital recognised, by placing a large order. Kandil’s desk is in a triangular shape, designed to suit a three person meeting situation. “Gaining popularity are square desks with spare chairs around and the manager’s high-backed office chair on one side — this is a perfect set-up for people who spend a lot of time in meetings but don’t want to move from their desks,” Kandil says. He chose his vibrant orange chairs from Interstuhl.
||**|||~|Bene-body-3.jpg|~||~|Most of the materials used in the showroom are wood, Messent explains: “We have our origins in the wood industry, the main materials we use are cherry-wood, walnut, beech, in addition to natural anodized aluminium and melamine. We never use rosewood or any rainforest wood, and whatever beech wood we use we replant another tree, these trees grow so quickly so we are always replenishing them.”

The boardroom is a good example of the future of smart offices. Kandil explains: “A boardroom of old, didn’t have any wire management to speak of, and when the technological age hit, boardrooms were filled with trailing wires, screens for video conferencing, projectors, cameras, all competing for space. The boardroom had to evolve to keep pace with the electronic and technological advances.”

Bene’s conference room has a multi-media infrastructure integrated into the conference furniture. Handled by a central, customised infra-red remote control, the projection system has a mirror built into the table projecting presentations onto a wall screen that extends from the Credenza conference cabinet. It has a self-supporting table, the AL, designed by Kai Stania, which despite being available between 2.5 metres up to a staggering 8 metres long, is supported by just four legs. In addition, the wire management system running down the length of the table can accommodate up to 16 electrical notebooks. The Design Centre North Rhine Westphalia recently awarded this Conference program the ‘Red Dot 2006’ award in the design category.

The mirror box under the table contains all the wires and speakers. “It is not a cheap boardroom table, but because everything is integrated it has taken away the cost of civil works of trying to suspend everything in the ceiling, additional screens, cameras etc.,” Messent explains. The art on the walls of the boardroom was supplied by Karen Parody, a British artist and art consultant. Touch pad technology in the boardroom controls the lighting, which can be programmed to suit the purpose and/or mood. Messent adds: “With the increasing stresses in the work environment, to create an office solution that works for you, rather than against you is paramount.” ||**||

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