Office furniture, like the office itself, must adapt to changing patterns of work. The Nomos concept is rooted in an earlier foray into furniture design. In 1981, when the practice expanded into a new studio, no existing furniture system could provide tables that might be adjustable for meetings, drafting or display. The outcome was a custom-designed table, made in a small production run by a sympathetic workshop.

Modified versions of this table were used in the Renault Distribution Centre, in Swindon, in the reception areas, offices and restaurant. The Italian furniture manufacturer, Tecno, subsequently commissioned the practice to develop the design. Tecno required a system that could optimise floor space, accommodate cabling, and be easily reconfigured. Launched in 1986, the Nomos range has been in production ever since.

The concept of Nomos (a Greek word that means 'fair distribution') is based on the relationship between the user and the space he or she occupies. A flexible kit of precision-engineered components can be combined to create miniature environments for individuals or groups, complete with built-in task or background lighting. The starting point is a spine, to which are added legs, feet, supports, work surfaces and superstructures; a vertebra-like conduit carries cabling. Installations can accommodate shelves, storage screens and signage systems. The system is designed for unlimited flexibility, but is governed by the ergonomics of the human body, seated or standing. In celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the collaboration between the practice and Tecno, an experimental edition of the desk was produced in 2013 with a long, slender concrete top.

Sketches + Drawings

Development

Construction

Quotes

Lance Knobel

“One of the most notable aspects of the Foster Techno project has been the visibility collaborative nature of the work. ‘Their performance has been spectacular’, says Foster’s Martin Francis about Techno. ‘We would go to a meeting one week and return a week later to find they had already made a complicated prototype,. In ten days, they handmade 1 metre of spine’, Foster’s approach is also notable. The practice worked on the problem in the same way that hey designed a building … ‘This was our first venture into mass production’, explains Francis. ‘Although our buildings were a metaphor for mass production, they were in fact craft products.”

Designers’ Journal, January 1987

Norman Foster

“The Nomos system can be explained as a layering of zones determined by the ergonomics of sitting and standing, work and storage, lighting power and information.”

Norman Foster

“I have chosen to express the Nomos frame in an extrovert way, like a bike, with a vivid palette of colours – a strong red, a vibrant yellow, a rich blue and a brilliant white.”

Facts + Figures

  • Appointment: 1987
  • Client: Tecno Spa.
  • Additional Consultants: Office Planning; Dieter Jaeger / Quickborner Team

Award

  • Design Centre Award Baden-Württemberg International Design Award