A Tent in the Office
A tent in the office? It sounds quite daring at first, but when looked at more closely the potential of such an idea becomes evident, as shown by the new "Steelcase Work Tents". This hybrid consisting of both architecture and furniture can be traced back to studies conducted by Steelcase together with the University of Wisconsin that addressed the issue of visual distraction at the workplace. The fact that this type of distraction disturbs concentration even more than acoustic stimuli motivated the Steelcase team to find a cost-effective solution involving simple materials and great spatial flexibility. At the end of their deliberations they came up with a typology that has provided protection and privacy since the earliest days of humankind, i.e. the tent.
To this end, Steelcase cooperated with industrial designer Chris Pottinger, who creates sleeping bags, backpacks, clothing and canteens, etc. for major outdoor companies. Different tent shapes, materials and functions were tested to find out exactly how a high level of psychological well-being in an office context could be created. "When we're in a tent, we automatically feel comfortable and safe. The idea of using tents in the workplace was so innovative that I really wanted to be part of it," Chris Pottinger said about the project. The Steelcase team subsequently developed several prototypes using small models made from pipe cleaners, string and tape.
The months-long process led to development of the "Steelcase Work Tents", which come in two main styles: the "Pod Tent" and the "Overhead Tent". The former is designed as a place of retreat, providing a private workspace for focused work. At the same time, the "Pod Tent" acts as an architectural element within a space. It's large enough for a single table or lounge setting, and its light weight means it can be easily placed anywhere. The open roof and large door ensure there's an ample circulation of air. Unlike the "Pod Tent", the "Overhead Tent" provides a dynamic, semi-open area that can be used for collaboration and sharing. It's suitable for open work environments, helping to zone areas needed for meetings. Like the "Pod Tent", it can be easily relocated and also allows for good air circulation. Both tents allow for new spatial configurations in workspaces that can be playfully designed while providing both a sense of shelter and community.