Take a stand: New design concept aims to phase out the office chair

| December 18, 2014

Sitting can be deadly, growing research reveals, causing an array of bodily troubles from organ damage and muscle degeneration to foggy thinking and back pain. One artistic new office design is aiming to combat the negative impact of sitting by eliminating the need for chairs. The project, called “The End of Sitting,” which is, as FastCo reports, “part art installation, part psychological study,” allows office workers to stand, lean, or even lie down while on the job.

© Jan Kempenaers via ArchDaily

© Jan Kempenaers via ArchDaily

The architecture firm behind the idea, Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances (RAAAF), calls it “an installation at the crossroads of visual art, architecture, philosophy and empirical science,” and necessary because “almost the entirety of our surroundings have been designed for sitting, while evidence from medical research suggests that too much sitting has adverse health effects.”

The designers’ goal is simple: they hope their research will lead to “radical change for the [designs of our] working environments.” The design concept itself is also simple; the space has no chairs or desks, but is instead replete with 3D geometric shapes. “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,” notes FastCo.

Designers built what they call an “experimental work landscape” over the course of 10 days at Looiersgracht 60, an exhibition space in Amsterdam. As part of a larger project — “The Landscape of Affordances: Situating the Embodied Mind,” a research project that the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research is funding — “The End of Sitting” isn’t just a conceptual office, it’s also a test case.

A group of researchers, writers and artists work in the landscape, their actions recorded by cameras and studied by psychologist Dr. Rob Withagen of the University of Groningen. Dr. Withagen analyzes how the project’s participants compare to traditional office workers in terms of movement and productivity.  The study’s results will be published this coming spring, but Dr. Withagen already reports some positive findings: “participants report feeling more energetic after standing/leaning in the labyrinth than they do in traditional office settings, despite more leg soreness.”

Until “The End of Sitting” becomes a reality, chronic sitters can follow a few guidelines to counteract the damage wrought by hours of occupying an uncomfortable office chair. Some tips, courtesy of the Washington Post:

  • Sit on “something wobbly,” like an exercise ball, to strengthen core muscles. Sit straight, and keep feet flat on the floor to support about 25% of your weight.
  • Walk it off: Walk while watching TV or during commercials. “Even a snail-like pace of 1 mph would burn twice the calories of sitting, and more vigorous exercise would be even better.”
  • Sit, then stand: Alternate at work between sitting and standing. If that’s not possible, stand up at least every 30 minutes and take a brief walk.
  • Stretch: Stretch out the hip flexors for three minutes per side daily, and try yoga poses to improve flexibility and extension, such as Cat/Cow poses.

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Category: New Products, Office courtesy

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