Architecture + Furniture = Spatial Adaptability

Thesis Statement: Architects should design flexible office environments with the usage of adaptable furniture that allows the users to interact with the furniture to create spatial environments best suitable for their work flow.

Periodical: ArchDaily

Design for productive working environments, such as offices, tends to be the hardest to tackle since everyone who works in that environment has different ways of being the most productive. With this in mind how does an architect design for the different spatial environments that people work optimally in? If architects designed spaces with adaptable furniture in mind this would allow users of these environments to manipulate the room layout to create these spatial environments that increase their productivity.

In recent years there has been a trend with stress in the work place rising. There have been estimates that the United States loses 105 billion dollars in revenue annually in work productivity because of mental health issues. There has been research done in the social sciences studying the psychological, physiological, and behavioral outcomes of this long term strain people undergo in the work environment. As designers, creating adaptable versatile work environments can help better the well being of workers and increase productivity (Preston, Mark S. 2007).

Back in the late 1990s, offices started to claim to be versatile environments when many of them weren’t. It had become difficult to try and accommodate for the growth and need for flexible space (Machado J, and Mikhail, M. 1999). One solution to this problem would be for architects to design with the future in mind, and how office spaces need to adapt fast as they are growing on a weekly basis. At one point in time, when there was a steady slow increase in offices, businesses were able to to just expand as needed. However, this is not the case in today’s market. There is an extreme lack of flexibility in office environments, and it is our responsibility as designers to help solve this problem (Machado J, and Mikhail, M. 1999). There is also the problem of ergonomics in the work environment. Most furniture designed is based off of human averages, however there are all different shapes and sizes of people, thus designing with adjustability in mind will increase work production (Steinfield. E, and Jordana, M. 2012).

Knoll, one of the top design and research based companies that solve practical workplace needs, released a research study containing an outline for designers on how to shape the workplace. In a study of workplace environments four points and their importance in the work place were discussed. Flexible furniture is one idea that allows for the users to rearrange the floor plan based on group or individual needs; allowing for formal and informal collaboration to increase (O’Neill, M. and Wymer, T. 2009)Adjustability is on an individual basis allowing the user to control and create a comfortable work environment best suited for their needs (fixing the monitor screen, adjusting chair, etc.). Access to power outlets and networks is also and important part, and providing them in the right places through storage units, wall units, etc. allows for easy work flow. Expression allows for adaptable environments to become places to exchange ideas and facilitate communication (O’Neill, Michael 2012).

By architects designing work spaces with the use of adaptable furnishings and accessories there can be a variety of different types, sizes and locations for the users to create themselves (Ouye, J. 2011). This idea to allow the user to design might be foreign to architects and designers, but in order to create a comfortable and low stress work environment, people ultimately know what is best for them and providing adaptable furniture to manipulate how they wish will be a positive for both employer and employee.

Works Cited:

Machado, Jamie U., and Mikhail L. Marsky. “Flexible Furniture   System with Adjustable and Interchangeable Components.” Google Books. N.p., 31 Aug. 1999. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.

O’Neill, M. and Wymer, T. (2009). “Design for Integrated Work.” White Paper, Knoll, Inc., New York, NY.

O’Neill, Michael, Dr. Adaptable By Design: Shaping the Work Experience. N.p.: Knoll, 2012. PDF.

Ouye, J. (2011). “Five Trends that are Dramatically Changing Work and the Workplace.” White Paper, Knoll, Inc., New York, NY.

Preston, Mark S. “Karasek’s Job Demand-Control Model: A Multi-Method Study Examining the Predictive Validity of Instrumental Feedback as a Second-Order Moderator Variable.” Order No. 3272354 State University of New York at Albany, 2007. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 27 Sep. 2015.

Steinfeld, Edward, and Jordana Maisel. Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.


Photo By: Isaac Krady

Designer: Isaac Krady

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3 thoughts on “Architecture + Furniture = Spatial Adaptability”

  1. Steph:

    I must confess that I do not know much about furniture or industrial design.

    The University of Illinois does have a research guide for Furniture that you might want to look at:

    Keep in mind you would have to check and see if we have te resources that they mention.

    You might also want to reach out to our collegues in Columbus as Ohio State offers programs in both interior desigh and industrial design. I don’t know which library would be ebst to contact. The Fine Arts library or the Architecture Library.

    Designing for People by Henry Dreyfuss is considered to be a classic book on industrial design. There are several editions in our collections.

    We also talked about books that cover the kinetics of the human body such as The Measure of man and woman : human factors in design.

    “human engineering” is a search term that you might want to use. Human Engineering is a bit broad, but if you were to use it in Lion Search and limit it by disciplines such ar architecture or visual arts you will find some useful items.

  2. Steph:

    I was just wondering how your research was coming along. I feel that I was least helpful for your topic than the others. Please let me know if you need any more help.


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