Canopy: For the Way We Plan Space

When Kimball Office asked Primo Orpilla to design a benching system last year, he had already been thinking about what an ideal workstation should be. He had been thinking about it for 25 years. If a career in workplace design teaches you anything, it is that people work differently depending upon their moods, the project, the progress of the day. “I wanted to combine all the things you would need in an office in one workplace system,” Primo says. With a tight deadline determined by Kimball’s desire to preview the piece at NeoCon, Primo set to work with assistant Emi Katagiri distilling everything he knew about workplace design into a single—and singular—piece of office furniture.

The result was Canopy.

A peerlessly adaptable desk that fits an astonishing range of possible configurations into the standard 30 x 60 workstation footprint, Canopy launched in October 2017 with a marketing flurry from Kimball and a sense of completion for its designer.

Canopy has been awarded several times. In 2017, we received a Good Design Award by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design in cooperation with the European Centre for Architecture, Art, Design and Urban Studies. This distinction recognizes Canopy as one of the most innovative and cutting-edge industrial, product, and graphic designs produced around the world. Fast Company celebrates Studio O+A with Canopy as the #4 of the Design’s Most Innovative Companies.

Primo’s early sketches reveal the fundamentals of the piece, all growing from long years of observation of what works and doesn’t work in an office environment. “Right away I kind of got the sense that—okay, we didn’t want it to be too leggy. You want to have freedom to get in anywhere along the work table and pull people in without obstruction.” So the floor supports are recessed from the edge of the table leaving room for any combination of knees. “And we needed to have sit-to-stand,” Primo continues. “I feel like everything going forward needs to be sit-to-stand.”

Another innovation: the electrical data trays under the work surface. “In Open Plan workstations,” Primo says. “it’s spaghetti madness under the table.” However elegant the piece looks in a brochure. “after the install it’s completely different because you have 20 wires coming up from the floor and it looks just awful. I wanted to include a cable management system that dealt with that.”

 “I feel like everything going forward needs to be sit-to-stand.”

Primo Orpilla

A trimmer profile, a cleaner presence –but what makes Canopy unique is the multiple ways it interacts with the workstations next to it. A complex menu of privacy panels, canopy panels, writeable surfaces, height adjustable surfaces, seating arrangements, accessory options and ganging brackets make each station, potentially, an abbreviated, all-purpose office.

“I was using the 30 x 60 unit as a measure,” Primo says, “because the way we plan space is based on 30 x 60 workstations. We plan 4-packs, 6-packs, 8-packs of workstations and that unit is almost universal for test fitting. So within that scenario, if all I had was 30 x 60, what else could I put in there? I could put a desk in, obviously, but could I get a little seating arrangement in there? Could I get a little conference room arrangement? Could I use the back of it for a team area? I tried to think of the 30 x 60 module and what that little 4-pack looked like and I worked within that. Because that’s the way we plan space today.”