Steelcase Celebrates 50 Years of NeoCon

See how the office has evolved since NeoCon opened its doors in 1969.

NeoCon

This year, NeoCon celebrates 50 years of bringing together the most important players in the commercial design industry. What started in 1969 with nearly 10,000 architects and designers has grown into an international design hub hosting more than 50,000 professionals every year in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

Since the late 1960’s, how people work has evolved and, in turn, so have their workplaces. Leadership became less hierarchical and more collaborative. The flow of information accelerated as did the speed of business. Organizations began to see themselves as social networks and cultures as much as structures.

In honor of NeoCon’s 50th anniversary, we dug through our archives to find Steelcase showrooms from decades past. See how the office has evolved since NeoCon opened its doors in 1969.

THE 1970s

By the 1970’s, work was no longer done alone at someone’s desk. In order to be creative and innovative, employees had to work cross functionally, on multidisciplinary teams. They began to move around more to be with the people required to get the job done. At NeoCon, Steelcase showed soft seating for residents and guests and new ways to divide office space that still allowed for transparency.

The 1970s

Famed American architect and interior designer, Warren Platner designed the landmark Steelcase showroom in 1970. Shown here: 451 Series Double Shell Chair with Fixed Base (1970)

The 1970s

This desk was designed to support the “office landscape” concept, an approach that the flow of the space should follow the flow of the paper process. Individual desk storage was minimized to keep paper flowing. Showroom packages, such as the one shown, were offered to give dealers an easy way to display Steelcase in their own facilities. (1971)

The 1970s

In the 1970’s, offices no longer had to be private or open. Glass-partitions let people have semi-private areas. The 5200 Series desk and storage collection let people easily personalize their work and storage space. (1971)

The 1970s

In 1979, Steelcase restored the showroom on the 11th floor of the Merchandise Mart designed by Platner to its original crystalline ambience. The new 10th floor showroom designed by architect Harry Weese reflected a new era of comfortable, modular systems of furniture. Shown here: Gardner Leaver guest chairs and table. They were featured on the Today Show on NBC. (1979)

The 1970s

Symbolic casters glowed behind glass walls in the 1979 showroom design. They were intended to suggest quality in every atom of construction. Shown here: 441 Series Multiple Seating, wood desk and credenza with to-the-floor storage and a combination of wood veneers and shining accents with a 454 ConCentrx chair.

The 1970s

Steelcase’s 9000 systems furniture provided solutions to privacy and communication needs that ranged from all the way open to fully enclosed. Also shown: 441 Multiple Seating (1979)

The 1970s

Like a flight of yellow butterflies, chairs floated in glass cubicles indivisible from their reflections in the ceiling. This display showcased the charisma of Platner — transforming ordinary space into the extraordinary. Shown here: Steelcase 441 Series modular seating, 450 series guest seating.

The 1970s

As much sculpture as stair, the floating spiral was a beautifully engineered link between the 10th and 11th levels of the Steelcase showroom. Weese designed it in the form of a chambered nautilus, flaring grandly at the base. (1979)

The 1970s

The 1979 showroom displayed a range of Steelcase Soft Seating. Furniture built the way people are built. Seating was soft, yet firm and comfortable for the human body. Shown here: Gardner Leaver chairs.

THE 1980s-1990s

In the 1980’s, collaboration and creativity were gaining in importance. By the 1990’s, social interactions and the spaces that supported them were becoming more important. At Steelcase, the late 1990’s brought about a new showroom created by Lauren Rottet and inspired by natural materials. Floating “clouds” of gypsum ceiling and translucent walls made of Danpalon created unique planes and light schemes with a custom-designed lighting system suspended in central space. Color was expressed through natural wood veneer panels with brilliant blue accents against elegant white walls and polished concrete floors.

The 1980s-1990s

In 1985, 454 ConCentrx Chair Stools created comfortable seating in a surface materials library resource space.

The 1980s-1990s

Steelcase’s 1985 showroom featured (far right) Snodgrass guest chairs and Designs in Wood Desking 420 Series, (middle) 445 Series Elysee, (far left) Gardner Leaver chairs and the 454 ConCentrx chair.

The 1980s-1990s

The Steelcase Sensor chair, designed by Wolfgang Mueller Deisig, was introduced at NeoCon in 1986.

The 1980s-1990s

As the first affordable high-performance office chair that automatically adjusts to all body sizes and movements, Sensor permeated pop culture. It was featured multiple times on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

The 1980s-1990s

Steelcase acquired Stow & Davis Furniture Company, a well-respected manufacturer of wood office furniture, in a merger that was approved in 1988. This NeoCon setting from that same year displayed a Stow & Davis Canto desk and matching credenza.

The 1980s-1990s

Steelcase showed Personal Harbor at NeoCon in 1995 featuring a Sensor chair. That year it was awarded a Gold Industrial Design Excellence Award. Videotaped studies were used to develop this self-contained workspace.

The 1980s-1990s

A wood-paneled Volkswagen 1999 Beetle with metallic silver exterior, along with a new showroom created by Lauren Rottet in 1999, showcased the versatility of Steelcase’s design capabilities. The showroom was an opportunity for Steelcase Wood to reveal new and innovative products.

THE 2000s-2010s

The Steelcase Design Studio worked with Shimoda Design Group to open a new showroom experience at NeoCon in 2008. Interior Design Magazine awarded it Best of Year in the Showroom category. Separate showrooms celebrated the diversity of three other brand showrooms in the Steelcase family.

The 2000s-2010s

The intention of the new WorkLife was to create a space that would celebrate Steelcase design and allow designers and architects to clearly visualize how they could create their own environments using Steelcase products. (2008)

The 2000s-2010s

To accomplish their design goal, the Steelcase WorkLife Center used a predominantly white color palette and an abundance of glass, with signature features such as totems, sinuous glass walls and a large-scale media wall inside the showroom. Show here: i2i Chairs (far left) (2008)

The 2000s-2010s

Careful thought went into the environmental features of the space. All of the new and existing Steelcase branded furniture and architecture products in the showroom, including walls, storage, furniture and seating, were Cradle to Cradle Certified. Shown here: Cobi chairs

The 2000s-2010s

In 2013, Steelcase launched Gesture, a new office chair designed in response to the latest research about changing postures in the workplace. Gesture is designed to support new postures driven by new technology and more casual behaviors in the workplace.

The 2000s-2010s

Gesture received accolades when it launched in 2013 and it continues to receive top marks today. Wirecutter recently named it the “Best Office Chair.” The called it “one of the most adjustable chairs available...and built to last.”

The 2000s-2010s

The Steelcase showroom featuring Creative Spaces, a range of technology-enabled workspaces designed to foster creative thinking at work, was awarded best large showroom at NeoCon 2017.

The 2000s-2010s

The Focus Studio, part of Creative Spaces shown in 2017, is designed to support alone time to focus while also allowing quick shifts to two-person collaboration.

The 2000s-2010s

Biophillic design is increasingly being integrated into furnishings as well as architecture. In the Best of NeoCon Healthcare, Fabrics & Textiles category 2017, the Biophilia Collection by Designtex won Gold.

NOW

In 2018, Steelcase will unveil it’s newly redesigned and expanded showroom on the third floor of the Merchandise Mart. Once again, the Steelcase Design Studio teamed up with Joey Shimoda, co-founder of the Shimoda Design Group. The new showroom brings together Steelcase, Coalesse, Turnstone and our partners in one place to support all the ways people work.

Now

(L to R) Joey Shimoda and Susan Chang, co-founders of Shimoda Design Group along with the Steelcase Design Studio led by James Ludwig (not pictured), vice president of Global Design and Engineering, and Cherie Johnson, global design director, created the new, expanded and redesigned Steelcase WorkLife experience opening at NeoCon 2018.

Now

SILQ a breakthrough in office seating design, will be shown at NeoCon 2018. Its innovative materiality is both mechanism and artistry, and delivers a personal experience by responding to the unique movements of your body.

Now

More than ever, employees demand a wide-range of aesthetics and settings. At NeoCon 2018, Steelcase partners with some of the world’s best brands to give customers a plurality of styles and materials for informal, casual, comfortable and inspiring spaces that help people concentrate, create, rejuvenate and innovate.

Now

At NeoCon 2018, people and place are enhanced with an integrated layer of embedded technology to connect people with services, apps and data so they can have a better day at work. It’s a Smart + Connected Workplace.


Steelcase invites you to the new Chicago WorkLife experience June 11-13, 2018 at NeoCon. Our online NeoCon Guide is available now. If you won’t be in Chicago, you can follow along with exclusive Facebook Live interviews and live tours.

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    David

    Wish I could be there! Exciting to see the different partnerships and new SILQ chair. Love the vintage photos throughout the decades.