The thinking is simple yet revolutionary: Start with a seat that makes it inviting and comfortable to connect with other people, and design all the other elements—surfaces for working, containers for storing, low partitions (that are easily moved) for screening—around it. Mix elements as needed across the office so there are places to work on one’s own, to sit and have a quick conversation with a coworker, and if the energy is right and the talk draws others in, to go to a nearby screened-in space or café-style setting. Make the elements versatile so they can be changed and added to for scalable growth. Create an appearance that fits equally well in growing start-ups and established office environments, and enable the ability to scale up to match growth.
“We wanted to create a design that would support a more flexible, fluid way of working,” explains Béhar, “while addressing the very human need for interaction”—in other words, to embody the best of the start-up vibe, with wide-open choices for where to work, so people can go to a spot that supports what they’re doing in the moment yet is absent the things that detract from the ability to make quality connections and do great work.
In reviewing Public for Architect magazine, Aaron Betsky,3 curator, lecturer, and writer on architecture and design, notes, “When you combine the chair with low partitions that finally seem to be as easy to detach and move as we were always promised such elements would be, with white desks in the background, Public Office Landscape looks more like a restaurant than a work setting.”
If the goal is to keep the vibe going, the Public menu is very appealing.
1 Larry Prusak, author and researcher, advanced the idea in the late 1990s. Malcolm Gladwell expanded on it in his New Yorker article “Designs for Working” (December 11, 2000, p. 60). Both owe a debt to the work of Kjeld Schmidt and Liam Bannon (“Taking CSCW Seriously: Supporting Articulation Work,” Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Vol. 1, 1992. pp. 7–40).
2 Herman Miller, “The Ws of Work,” September 2011.
3 Aaron Betsky, “Swiss Designer Yves Béhar’s Public Office Landscape Furniture Promotes ‘Social Desking,’” Architect, February 26, 2014.