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Designing Personal Space in a Crowded World

13/04/2011

While today everything is about bringing people together, in the coming years, there will be a big push for personal space.

There’s a difference between privacy and personal space. Privacy really is on its way out and we’re slowly letting that happen. Personal space, on the other hand, will probably be highly sought after in the future. The definition of personal space need will also change. It will probably ‘mean insulation from external stimuli’ (like people talking, media, and visual distraction) rather than presenting more room between people.

Along those lines are two remarkably similar solutions by two distinct groups. At the top is the Privacy Chair by Marijn van der Poll and above is the Box chair by Loook Industries. Both of these chairs work to create a certain zone where an individual can be ‘alone’. The Box line contains sound dampening for more private phone conversations and also to carve out the perception of insulation in crowded places. Van der Poll designed his chair to specifically offer “…some privacy for users in today’s open office plans offering some protection from visual and audible distractions.” Something I can understand – working in an open-concept office myself. Even though I am not immediately next to someone, the  times I feel as though I have personal space is when I sneak on some headphones or peer deeply enough in my monitor as to blur out my periphery. Even social animals need their alone time.

Both’s designs work hard to craft as close to a closed space as possible, much like a cocoon where the three enclosed sides provide a sort of safety which can induce the sort of calming likened to being in your own space. It’s surprising how little stimuli that sensation requires, recalling how using a pay phone that was only a half booth around your torso felt like the privacy of a block house.

Further, it’s amusing to think that some of the principle actions described in both pieces’ benefits have to do with not only shutting out media but creating the privacy to indulge in our own media pursuits – a giant shift from only a few years ago where media consumption was considered a social event.

I find it interesting that online, we are nearly daily breaking down social barriers between each other and at the same time, in the real world, working diligently to buttress our eroding personal space to hold back those same hoards.

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