A Complete Lack of Privacy: Yves Behar’s New Office Design

By Joseph Flaherty from Wired.com:

OK, OK, the actual title of the article is “An Office Landscape Designed to Kill Boring Meetings.” But to me the most striking feature of Béhar’s office design is its complete lack of privacy. The article’s one nod to this: “… in an age of noise canceling headphones, small groups could meet in a central work area without causing a disturbance.” Noise canceling headphones? No disturbance? Please. No headphones block noise completely, and in any case they can’t provide the visual serenity and lack of stimulation which many (most?) people need to actually get work done. The furnishings are very pretty, but the design altogether is an unworkable fishbowl.

Designs become icons when they embody the time in which they were created. The Eames lounge chair represented a midcentury shift to a more casual home life when many people still held “tea times” in formal living rooms. The invention of the Aeron chair in the 1990′s marked an era when a company could show that it cared about its employees by giving them the pinnacle in ergonomic seating. Today, with the launch of Herman Miller’s Public Office Landscape furniture system, Fuseproject, the design firm run by Yves Béhar, hopes to capture the spirit of our networked lives in a collection of chairs, desks, and space shaping components.

“We’re trying to reflect horizontality and creativity,” says Béhar. “Today, it’s not just the boss that gets a special chair. Because of improvements in materials and the way we approach design, everyone can have one. With the Public Office Landscape, we tried to capture this notion of collaboration and immediate access to ways of getting together.” On the surface the collection is stylish and airy, but below the polished aesthetics the system reveals a lot about what it means to be a modern office worker.

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