These days, the average individual spends 90% of their time indoors, a feature—not a bug—of our world’s computer-heavy labor economy. In light of this sedentary statistic, plenty of designers are seeking to bring nature into interior design. This approach is known as “biophilic design,” a term first coined in the 1980s by biologist Edward O. Wilson, who realized that people weren’t spending enough time outside, despite having an innate desire for the great outdoors. His solution? Bring the outdoors, indoors, by designing plants into typically sterile environments, like office spaces.
New Territory, a London-based design agency, is the latest design studio to incorporate plant life in unexpected places. In this case, the dreaded open plan office.
The project, called Parterre, addresses many of the problems associated with open plan workspaces, from noise concerns to the lack of privacy (and latent sexism). While plenty of offices rely on room dividers made out of conventional materials to keep employees happy, New Territory’s system offers an alternative: planting shrubs in the negative spaces between desks.
This modular desk system aims to fully integrate plant life into modern workspaces, by linking different seating arrangements and common spaces through chlorophyll-bearing specimens.
The point isn’t just to make offices quieter and healthier. It’s to let employees cultivate their own gardens, too. “We wanted to give people the opportunity to program the space and consider plant life as a part of the physical infrastructure,” Luke Miles, founder of New Territory, said in a statement. “Using the distinct properties of different plant types to deliver on specific spatial needs—like acoustics, scent, and porosity. We also want people to actively look after the system, so integrated sensors that alert the users over a Slack channel for example, as to when to water the plants.”
The system is made up of interconnected, cantilevered desks—united by power lines used for desk lighting—and metal totems that hold the planters. This provides employees convenient access to their plants, for tending, and is designed as a flexible unit so planters can be easily removed and rearranged.
The mental health benefits associated with plants are numerous; in this light, Parterre’s breaking down of the boundary between indoor and outdoor spaces promises to promote greater workplace happiness, productivity, and positive feelings of responsibility for the people—and plant lovers—who work near them.