Forget standing desks. In the office of the future, you might lean instead–supported by giant rock-like sculptures that designers argue are a healthier, more active way to work than anything that’s come before. A prototype of the office design is now on display in Amsterdam.
“We said, what if we could create a work environment which is not based on tables and chairs anymore?” says Ronald Rietveld, one of the founders of RAAAF, a Dutch design firm that worked on the project with artist Barbara Visser. “We wanted to create not just furniture, but new ways of working actively on the scale of the whole working environment.”
The new office is meant to help combat all of the health problems–from heart disease to diabetes–that the typical desk job can contribute to or exacerbate. Throughout the day, people lean in different positions and keep moving around the room. “It’s the opposite of the office chair, which evolved to be a kind of monster over time, and is forcing you to sit eight hours in the same way every day,” Rietveld says.
The designers are working with researchers from the University of Groningen to test the room’s advantages. “The results will be published next spring,” says Rietveld. “But what seems to be a result is that after a day of working, people are more active in their head, but more tired in their body. And that’s actually what it’s all about–the main goal is to actually put more pressure on your legs during the day, and take different positions. That’s what sitting is not doing.”
Here’s a glimpse of the design process:
The project raises questions about how much of our lives we spend sitting down, even outside of the office. “Our whole society is based on sitting–sitting in traffic, sitting in school if you’re a child,” Rietveld says. “If you are a child, the first punishment is to stand in the corner of the classroom. It actually all starts really early.”
For the designers, the installation is meant to make people rethink work–this particular design may not show up in actual offices anytime soon, although furniture manufacturers have already started calling.
“We are not actually focusing on rocks taking over the world or something,” says Rietveld. “It’s a thinking model. That’s the way we work as a studio–we try to work on the border of architecture, art, and science, to come up with new ways of thinking rather than solving all of the world’s problems. It’s really focusing you to think in a different way.”
The installation is currently on display at Looiersgracht 60, a gallery that focuses on art and science and was also made with support from the Mondriaan Fund, Stichting DOEN, The Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, and The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.