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NeoCon unveils NeoCon Plaza, an experiential outdoor environment

Rendering courtesy Gensler_Michael Townsend

To further enhance the NeoCon experience and address the next frontier of flexible workplaces, the 51st edition will mark the launch of the NeoCon Plaza, a new outdoor amenity space that spans the length of The Mart’s South Drive. Designed by Gensler Chicago and brought to life in collaboration with Forward Fruit Branded Environments, it will offer visitors a place to connect, collaborate, relax, recharge and unwind and enjoy the outdoors, with a backdrop featuring sweeping views of the Chicago River, Riverwalk, and Chicago cityscape. The NeoCon Plaza will be complemented by product introductions and programming throughout the overall show, offering attendees valuable insight into the importance of outdoor spaces for work and other commercial environments.

According to Todd Heiser, Managing Director and Principal of Gensler Chicago, “An effective workplace is critical, but it’s no longer enough. Employees want, and expect, an excellent experience at work, which means spaces with high levels of choice, variety and balance. Adding an outdoor element is another step in the evolution of choice and it is with this philosophy that we approached the NeoCon Plaza.”

Inspired by the idea of “The Urban Boardwalk,” the NeoCon Plaza provides a welcome outdoor oasis. Along the meandering boardwalk, which was built by Skender Construction, guests will find different sheltered and unsheltered spaces for work, meeting, gathering, rest, nourishment and celebration. These social and ancillary spaces will be furnished by Haworth and Haworth Collection brands including Cassina, Janus et Cie and Cappellini and feature an extensive range of offerings from lounge seating and height-adjustable tables to outdoor furnishings. Sunbrella Contract high-performance fabrics on lounge seating, pillows, and shade features, show how durable and fade- resistant fabrics meet demanding commercial needs to create the extraordinary. The entire footprint of the outdoor environment features carpets made with ECONYL regenerated and regenerable nylon created from waste including fishing nets and old carpets. All the carpet tile has been designed and supplied by Interface, made with ECONYL yarn. Attendees will also enjoy a wide range of gourmet food and drink options for breakfast through evening created by Chef Michael Kornick of DMK, the restaurant group behind The Mart’s Marshall’s Landing. IIDA, the commercial interior design association, will be hosting a branded pop-up featuring smoothies and frozen drinks among other goodies.

“Social spaces are flexible, communal and inspiring, so people can pause, gather, connect and refresh. And, for a lot of these areas, outside is the new in,” adds John Scott, Senior Workplace Design Strategist at Haworth. “In order to creatively develop solutions and reduce the stress in our work lives — go outside. The NeoCon Plaza will give attendees an immersive look into how these spaces can be successfully implemented,” he continues.

The NeoCon Plaza will be open Sunday, June 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Monday, June 10, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday, June 11, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Wednesday, June 12, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. A special Art on theMART projection will be featured on the façade of The Mart after sundown on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights (from approximately 8:30 p.m. 11p.m. Additional details for the NeoCon Plaza can be found online at www.neocon.com.

The idea of utilizing the outdoors to work, collaborate and improve one’s health and wellbeing will also be addressed in NeoCon’s comprehensive conference program. On the morning of Monday, June 10th, Leah Bauer, IIDA, ASID, IFMA, interior design director and practice leader, of HDR will lead a presentation with Assal Yavari, CID, associate director, facilities and operations of Gilead Sciences on “Outdoor Workplace Evolution (M112)” and the results of their partnered efforts to shift culture through data. That afternoon, Heiser and Paul Makovsky, editor in chief of Contract magazine, will explore the topic of “The Outdoor Office: The Next Big Thing (M128).” The conversation will focus on the recent surveys indicating how biophilic design creates a more productive, creative, and happier workforce and the opportunities and challenges involved in creating outdoor workspaces—from new codes to specifying the appropriate products for these spaces and what to expect when doing so.

The show also provides an ideal opportunity to interact one-on-one with top manufacturers and brand representatives that offer outdoor-minded solutions. From permanent showrooms including Haworth (312), Extremis/Steelcase (300/301), Arper (346), Janus et Cie (1420/310A), Tucci (1507), ECONYL (11-107), MAMAGREEN (1586) and Kannoa (1598) to 7th-Floor exhibitors including Sunbrella Contract (7-7054), Chilewich (7-7030), emuamericas (7-4086), Pedrali (7-5050), and Lonseal Flooring (7-9106), the spotlight on the outdoor workspace continues throughout the building.