The home of architecture and design in Asia-Pacific

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

Cologne Convos: Oki Sato

Cubes editor Narelle Yabuka met Nendo founder Oki Sato amidst the bustle of Orgatec 2016 to discuss the concept behind his Rolling Workspace.


October 28th, 2016


Hiroshi Iwasaki

EDITOR OF CUBES, NARELLE YABUKA: What are the key ideas in Rolling Workspace? It seems to emphasise physical activity, handwritten communication, imagination, and control over the work environment. Were there other ideas?

FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF NENDO, OKI SATO: You’ve answered most of the question! In the beginning it was only about the whiteboard. We noticed that usually it’s square with legs and wheels. We thought, why don’t we make the whiteboard itself like a big wheel? We noticed that we could roll this around everywhere in the office, and we started thinking about furniture pieces as well, like benches, desks and tables. When we have these slots on the tables, we thought maybe we could use the slots for bicycles as well.

So in the end I had this image of people riding their bikes from home, to the inside of the office even, very close to their desks. And they could use their bikes to move to the meeting room, or the cafeteria or whatever – a very flexible and mobile office environment was the final image we had for the concept.

NY: Allowing people to control their work environment is a key point too, right?

OS: Yes. Before, the office was very static. And now I think it’s getting more open, more flexible, and it’s changing a lot.

NY: Does Rolling Workspace, and the emphasis on analogue handwriting, have at its heart some kind of displeasure with digital communication?

OS: Well maybe it’s related to my process of designing things. We have six 3D printers in our office. And we always work on renderings. But in the beginning, the initial ideas always come from sketches. So I feel that it’s very important that when we come up with an idea, we don’t work directly on digital media. It’s about working physically first, and making models by ourselves, and drawing our own sketches. It’s very important in our process. That’s how I felt when I started working on this concept.

NY: So it’s about your process. Is it also about digital communication in general?

OS: I think it’s very important that there’s a mixture between digital and analogue. That’s the reason why we started working on the whiteboard. It was a single object in the beginning, and then it developed into this big collection and we did this installation.

NY: It’s got the potential to be a whole environment.

OS: It’s very conceptual at this point. We feel it will develop into real products in the future. I think there are a lot of different ideas, and it’s an ongoing project. It’s still developing … It’s not a concept for a singular product. We want to show that it could develop into an actual working environment or space that is very different to other office spaces.

NY: Do you think Rolling Workspace could go into any kind of working environment? 

OS: I think so. We’d need to adjust it of course. It may end up as a single product, but I think it also may work in different environments.

NY: For how many years has Nendo designed for Kokuyo?

OS: The first collaboration was three or four years ago. We worked on some shelves, then the sofa unit called Brackets, and then we did the presentation here two years ago at Orgatec. And we are working on many other projects at the moment. So it’s a pretty long relationship between Nendo and Kokuyo.

NY: How is your relationship with Kokuyo growing and developing?

OS: We’re working on stationery at the moment. I think we’ll have a stronger relationship in the future because we’re working on so many projects at the same time. It’s really interesting for us because we work a lot with European clients, but Kokuyo is one of the rare clients that’s based in Japan but they want to do something here in Europe. In that sense we feel very proud to be able to present Japanese or Asian clients here in Europe. It’s a big challenge for us as well. It’s a big mission for us.

NY: The Offset Frame chair also emphasises mobility in the workplace.

OS: Yes it has a handle!

NY: How did the idea come about?

OS: We noticed that people bring office chairs around to different areas, they stack them up, and they hang things on them like coats and blankets. We thought, instead of adding a handle, let’s start from a handle and try to make it into a chair so it was the other way around. The relationship with mobility is one of the reasons why we’re showing it here with the new Rolling Workspace concept.

NY: How did you choose the materials? You would have had to keep the weight down.

OS: Yes the weight was very important in this project, and also the pricing. A lot of Asian companies, especially in the office furniture market, produce very cheap products. So we need to be very competitive in terms of price. But it also has to have different ideas, concepts and functions. It was pretty tough to design that chair because the limitations were very tight.

NY: Was there any particular influence on the colours you chose? They’re mostly muted.

OS: This is one direction that Nendo and Kokuyo are trying to work on – not working on strong colours, and also not only on grey tones, but trying to find something in between that we can mix and match with existing environments. This is one of the directions we are exploring. That’s why the colours we are using on the whiteboards is more or less in a similar direction – starting with the grey tones, smoky colours, and then going into pastel colours as well.

NY: What would you say are the key values or initiatives that are important to Kokuyo? Are there new directions in Kokuyo’s products, or certain focal points for the brand?

OS: One of the big things is that Kokuyo does not only work on office furniture, but also on stationery – small pens, clips, notebooks. I feel there is very high potential when they start to blend these two different directions. Did you see the small cleaners for the [Rolling Workspace] whiteboards? When you open the discs you see the pen inside. These small ideas make the big difference in the end. This is one of the most important things about this installation actually – it’s about mixing the stationery division with the furniture division. I think we can explore much more in this direction – finding a mixture of furniture and stationery goods.

NY: What do you think are some of the main issues that architects and designers of workplaces should be considering at the moment?

OS: Before, there was a strong trend about eco-friendly workspaces and green offices. Then we moved on to flexibility and mobility, working in a very free way. I think the trend is now varying into different directions. There isn’t a certain trend. When you look around, everyone’s facing different directions. At the moment, I think design or architecture in general has a lack of trends – which is the trend. I feel that there isn’t a very strong stream, but it’s flowing into different directions at the moment. Which is very interesting to me, as a designer.

Portrait images by Joakim Blockstrom.

INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed