The 'End of Sitting' as We Know It?

by Daniel Rosen
Feb 1, 2016 7:35 AM ET

Attendees at the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial may have come across a concept for an office space that, upon first glance, appears better suited for an avant-garde theater than an everyday workplace. 

“The End of Sitting” is an experimental office space that uses its unique design to encourage workers to stand, lean or lie against its many three-dimensional shapes.

“In our society, almost the entirety of our surroundings have been designed for sitting, while the evidence from medical research suggests that too much sitting has adverse health effects,” says Ronald Rietveld, co-founder of RAAAF, the Amsterdam-based design firm behind the concept, in an interview with Blueprint, presented by CBRE.

Indeed, recent medical research has warned that too much sitting can lead to disease and a range of serious medical conditions, while standing at work can enhance brain functions, such as focus and memory. Experts say a combination of sitting and standing is a healthier alternative. This is why RAAAF’s radical design forces people to move around and situate themselves in different parts of the space throughout the day.

Looking back at the evolution of the workplace in the last 100 years (which the company calls “the century of sitting”), RAAAF wanted to create “a rich landscape of standing affordances that solicit people to stand and switch postures.”

In other words, RAAAF wanted to redefine office furniture as office “activities.”

“We ignored the chair and table for a moment and aimed at creating a workplace which tempts people to work standing upright, first of all, but, moreover, encourages them to change positions continuously throughout the day,” says Rietveld. 

While the concept remains in its experimental trial phase, the designers at RAAAF are continuing to experiment with the design to find the best angles for bodies of any gender, height and shape as people conduct common office activities (like drinking a cup of coffee while reading a document). They are also working on placing a new installation inside an office of the Dutch central government.

“We need to radically change our environment and induce new patterns of behaving,” says Rietveld. “This is a wonderful initiative to make people more active.”