Arras workstation

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Arras in yellow against charcoal grey.

Arras in yellow against charcoal grey.

Celebrating flexibility, collaboration and the benefits of chance encounters, Arras by Marc Fong is the first workstation designed specifically for Herman Miller’s Asia Pacific market.

Running late, again, I find myself scurrying down Brunswick Street with a few others to hail a cab and head to my next port of call. I recall now it being the start of a build up to my eventual discovery. The cool cats on the pavement flicker in my vision as the taxi races through the unmistakable chaos of inner Melbourne streets. Our charismatic driver preaches his thoughts about social injustice, igniting a rolling conversation. The cab stops quickly and I exit this scene into another to meet someone who truly understands these types of impromptu human experiences – Marc Fong.

Fong is one of those people who hits the nail on the head. Whether he’s good with a hammer is immaterial; what he does is speak volumes about the way we need to design for the betterment of our life. Born from two creative parents and raised in his home country of Malaysia, Fong has obviously accessed his confident style from those early moments with his mother, a fashion designer, and his father, a chef.

As a graduate of study in Australia, Fong has extended his trade in the bustling cosmopolitan cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong where he is currently the head of research and design, Asia Pacific, for Herman Miller. He introduces me to Arras. This is the first workplace benching system dedicated to the Asia Pacific market for Herman Miller – and one that Fong oversaw with his small team in Hong Kong.

For someone who is near the top of his game, Fong is quite open about his creative theory and the natural joy of what he has created here – it is part of him. We start to chat about the unique process he enjoys and the way everything he creates is based on “image scenarios.” Whether it’s from all those parties he “didn’t” go to in Sydney, spontaneous encounters with people or whether it is from his genetic refinement, his ability to deliver cognitive solutions needn’t be questioned.

With this, Fong’s latest project, he speaks of the need to be collaborative in today’s climate. This project has enjoyed cross collaboration of research, prototyping and design to stretch the boundaries of appeal and usability. The designers’ need to prototype quickly using SLA and CNC technologies has seen the system’s form molded into what we see today. The distinctive low-slung hoops are the key element that supports the working surface and, in the end, solidifies the streamlined aesthetic of Arras. Bamboo and straw board are introduced as working tablet options. The system encourages seasonal graphic opportunities, enabling it to adapt and flex as required and showing a consideration future environs. Couple this with the delightful soft radius of each corner and junction and the system really does become a user’s playground and one that is ready for any type of change.

Perhaps the most exciting identity of Arras is its appreciation of fashionable yet tailored colour. Arras provides a confident balance of proportion with smacks of carefully considered hue that appear as edge wraps and covers for parts of the kit. As Fong puts it, this level of attention comes from a desire to produce “physical durability and emotional longevity.” This same desire enables the addition of colour to otherwise neutral working environments.

So, the challenge for Arras is to become the choice in the competitive workplace solutions market for our multicultural world. The intelligence that underlies the Arras system will perhaps become more apparent in the future, as we start to appreciate a workstation system that enables us to tap into those exact discoveries the designer imagined might occur. 

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