at NeoCon 2015, office furniture manufacturer Okamura unveiled Traverse V and Traverse X, a pair of conference table designs inspired by architecture and employing advances in structural engineering. The Traverse 5, which won a NeoCon Gold Award, is really a sight to behold.

The table, which is striking up close and difficult to photograph, features a top so thin that it seems to float on the minimal support system -  yet it can span up to 20 feet in length. Each component of the table has been meticulously designed, from the silhouette to the transparent design. The edge of the tabletop can be knife edge or flat. The tabletop itself can be rectangular or ovoid.

The table is so beautiful in person that it is easy to forget it is a wood product, available in multiple species  - dyed oak, dark sapele, walnut, figured maple, teak, or natural oak - and 14 finishes. It is also available in reconstituted wood. Most remarkably, it conceals any indication that there are electronics or electrical access lurking within it. This is both for aesthetic reasons - the surface is plain and clean -and practical. In the future, probably the near future, the elimination of wires on desktops is expected to become a reality, as wireless charging and wireless internet connects eliminate any need for cabling.

To create the table, Okamura engaged HOK Product Design with a brief that asked: What is the essence of a conference table? How can it bring a profound presence, with a high premium on design and comfort--yet in a way that meets the changing needs of today's workforce? 

"Conference rooms today are faced with shrinking room size, as well as the need for integrated and evolving technology. We wanted to bring real, relevant options in table size, while keeping the perception of size to a minimum," says Susan Grossinger, Senior VP and Director of HOK Product Design. "We also wanted the beautiful materiality and scale of the tables to come through - while incorporating power and data connectivity under the table, to allow a clean, cable-free top as well as removal for a wireless future, without marring the table."

The table top is incredibly thin, less than 1" at its thickest point and tapering to a knife edge. The effect is magnificent, in either a rectangular shape or a more intimate, collaborative oval. The support structure is also remarkably minimal--in the Traverse V Collection, a simple canted leg design is echoed on either side of the table, without the need for a center support. In a Traverse X version, the same effect of a hovering plane is created, over a visible cross structure.

"The development process of the Traverse Collection was an exciting collaboration," said Hiroki Iwashita, Senior Managing Director, Marketing Division of Okamura. "HOK Product Design approached the product with an absolute commitment to beauty and high quality. Our engineers were challenged to respond to their design thinking, in ways that we have never tried before."

Integrated technology is concealed in each design, allowing for future flexibility as technology changes.

With the arrival of wireless presentation systems and other office tools, the designers located technology underneath and out of view, to avoid unsightly cables on the tabletop, as well as providing more usable space.

Okamura is Japan's leading office furniture manufacturer. Its products are now distributed to over 80 countries. www.okamura.jp/ HOK Product Design partners with manufacturers to develop products that enhance their portfolios while strengthening their market presence. www.hokproductdesign.com/

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