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The Museum of Modern Art in New York featured an exhibition called "Workspheres" in the spring of 2001 (through April 22). "Workspheres presumes that while our work determines our lives, in the future our lives will be able to shape the way that we work," notes the exhibition brochure. "This exhibition focuses on the work environment and the role of design in creating effective solutions for the near future. Design is first and foremost about life - it can mediate between technology and human beings, facilitating the tidal changes brought about by technology that affects the way people live."

I visited MOMA with some clients and took some photographs of a few of the items that caught my eye. These are only meant to show you the range of products displayed, and is in no way representative of the full exhibit. Some of these products are currently in production and others are design concepts only. What was most striking to me is the way in which they attempt to create a sense of privacy and comfort in the context of technology and open offices. The more mobile workers there are, the more these kinds of solutions will become common as employers look for "drop-in" workstations. Some are also well-suited for use at home.




You're looking at an office built into an airline cargo container. Instead of holding suitcases, this one holds a desk, two chairs, a computer, and other office features. It's much less confining than it may appear, but I'm not sure I'd want to spend a long time inside this metal box.


The large gray, concave "shell" that faces you is a privacy shield and a work area for holding papers. When seated at the desk, you feel like you are somewhat enclosed and shielded from people walking by, but not to the degree that you feel boxed in.

This may look like it belongs on the beach, but it's actually meant to be a casual work chair. The canvas hood in mounted on a pivot; grab the red handle that hangs down from the top and you can raise and lower it like the hood on a baby stroller. Depending on the amount of visual and auditory privacy you seek, you can push it all the way back and be in the open, or pull it all the way down so you are totally enclosed.


This was one of my favorites - it reminds me of a sea shell that has been sliced in half. The desktop is a translucent surface onto which your computer image and other work tools are projected from below. The swirl curving up from the right is filled with various storage compartments for pens, paper clips, and the like. Note how the person sitting at the desk has some privacy but is not totally enclosed.


This may look like the ultimate "mobile office" - but if you look closely you'll see that only the seat is on wheels. The slanted, concave "work wall" you face has tiered paper holders, and is high enough so that the user can't see over it when seated. This is a concept only, but it's an interesting one.


It's a little hard to see it, but that orange "roof" over the desk is slanted so it gives the effect of an awning - and the two white vertical panels below it combine with that awning to give the user a feeling of privacy. However, there is plenty of open space between and around the panels so you aren't completely disconnected from the rest of the office.


Doesn't this look comfortable? The monitor mounted above your head is perfectly within viewing range when you lie back in this "chaise lounge" chair. Assuming you had a wireless keyboard and some small file cabinets at your side, you could just relax, take the pressure off your back, and get to work - or fall asleep!


Notice how high and how deep the two curved panels at the side of the chair are - they block out most of the sound but don't completely enclose the user. This reminds me of a phone booth that is enclosed enough to block sound but doesn't make you feel like you're squeezed into a glass box.


You can't get more comfortable and home-like than this. The panel at the foot of the bed raises and lowers for viewing of the built-in monitors, and the two square pillows at the top are actually speakers. If the morning commute down the hallway for people who work at home is too long, this may be the answer.
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