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Offices ‘get smart’ with an old solution to a new problem

Offices ‘get smart’ with an old solution to a new problem


All images courtesy Envoy. Article by Doug Ross.

Envoy Furniture’s ‘Framery O’ inevitably conjures up a range of reactions from those who first see it. Some will be reminded of the ‘Cone of Silence’ from Get Smart, a teleportation machine from Star Trek or a high tech airport body scanner.

Framery O’s rounded edges and bright exteriors create a distinctly retro space age effect – a contemporary homage to the work begun by mid-century designers such as Eero Saarinen, who predicted that sleek curves and minimalistic design would shape all 21st century offices.

Framery O

Though its novel design may appear to be lifted from a postwar futurist’s sketchbook, the Framery O is of inarguable value for offices seeking to promote connected, open-plan workspaces while providing the option of acoustic zoning.

A 10-year study conducted by the University of Sydney analysed over 40,000 survey samples, collected in 303 office buildings across the globe, looking at the effects of various design principles on the level of satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, of each building’s inhabitants.

The study found that approximately 59 percent of those surveyed who worked in open-plan cubicles and 49 percent of those surveyed who worked in open-plan, with no or limited partitions, expressed dissatisfaction with the condition of sound privacy.

Framery O

One of the study’s authors, Jungsoo Kim, extrapolates on the findings to suggest a relationship between inadvertently being able to hear people’s conversations and not being able to concentrate.

“It’s not part of my research, but based on the literature on noise distraction, previous researchers have said that intelligible speech interrupts cognitive processes. Steady, constant noise, like ventilation noise, doesn’t interrupt people’s thinking too much, but intelligible speech does,” Kim says.

The Framery O’s design accepts the benefits of an open-plan office environment, but is aware of how an overheard conversation can destabilise the productivity of any work environment.

Laminated Sound Control glass along with sound absorbing materials helps to eliminate outside noise and keep inside conversations private, while LED lighting, access to an electrical socket and a table for papers or laptop allow the Framery O to be used as a quiet study space, and as a break from the usual office environment.

It is also highly customisable, with a vast range of materials available to choose from for both the interior and exterior and for the furniture inside.

Even with its customisability, reactions to this space-age interpretation of the classic phone booth are sure to be varied, but the attempt to address the significant concern of productivity in today’s offices has resulted in a slightly kitsch but effective solution.

Envoy Furniture focus on designing products that bridge the gap between the need for interactive, open-plan workplaces and the individual need for quiet and solitude when concentrating on a task. Check out their website here for more of its designs.


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