Even though it’s now old news that sitting is killing us all, people still sit a whole lot, especially at office jobs. Standing desks are one solution, but office workers often have to take the initiative to request one from their employers. What if, instead, an office’s very design simply ruled out the option of sitting all day?
RAAAF a Netherlands-based experimental studio that works at the intersection of visual art, architecture, and science, collaborated with artist Barbara Visser to design “The End of Sitting,” a conceptual office with no chairs and no traditional desks. Instead, the office is filled with faceted three-dimensional geometric shapes on which workers can stand, lean, perch, or even lie down. Viewed from above, the white objects resemble an artist’s abstract rendering of cracked glacial ice more than furniture. They range from waist-height to shoulder-height, allowing workers to change positions throughout the day.
The designers spent 10 days building the labyrinthine “experimental work landscape” from plywood frames and a secret render (described as being “as hard as concrete”) at Looiersgracht 60, an Amsterdam-based exhibition space. “The End of Sitting” is part art installation, part psychological study: it’s the visual component of architect Erik Rietveld’s research project, called “The Landscape of Affordances: Situating the Embodied Mind,” which is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The activity of participants working in “The End of Sitting”—a group of writers, artists, and researchers—is recorded with four cameras. Psychologist Dr. Rob Withagen of the University of Groningen is studying how these participants compare in their levels of movement and productivity to those working in a traditional open-office setting.
Though the study is not complete—Withagen will publish his findings in a report this spring—he says in a statement that participants report feeling more energetic after standing/leaning in the labyrinth than they do in traditional office settings, despite more leg soreness. These anecdotal reports are in line with many tales of converting to a standing lifestyle. The designers hope their research will inspire “radical change for the [designs of our] working environments.” Perhaps we’ll all one day be lolling about on weird minimalist sculptures at work instead of hunched over in cubicles.