This paper is devoted primarily to the presentation and discussion of a novel architecture, called workbench, that facilitates application of system independent feature objects in various stages of mechanical design process. The motivation behind the development of this non-traditional architecture for advanced CAD/CAE systems lies in the necessity to (a) separate application oriented feature entities from the geometric modeling kernel, (b) increase the level of integration of functioning modules by supporting parallel processing and intercommunication, finally, (c) extend the scope of near-future systems to conceptual design in order to increase their influence on the technical and economic value of products. First, the paper gives an overview on the related research. Then, it presents the workbench architecture that consists of four main fundamental modules that are integrated, simultaneously active, and communicating. The library manager taxonomically classifies, retrieves and activates the existing feature-objects. The libraries of feature-objects contain generic entities for procedural modeling in conceptual design, shape design, manufacturing process planning, assembly planning, or other applications. The pool is an intermittent store of feature-instances that have been produced by procedural modeling based on the feature-object programs. The workspace provides graphical interactive tools for manipulation and positioning of, and composition with feature-instance geometries. The paper also discusses some implementation aspects.