Comfort Beyond the Open-plan Office: Evavaara Design’s Acoustic Furniture
The gradual accumulation of various complementary technologies has unshackled employees from previously restrictive office and desk-based work. In the modern world, they have the freedom to work wherever they want, be it at home, on the train, in a café, in the park or anywhere else. These often cacophonous working locations, however, provide little privacy, and often result in the pioneering professionals fighting a losing battle against concentration.
Faced with the problems this evolution from traditional office environments creates, few companies have been as quick to develop solutions as Finnish brand Evavaara Design. After making his first chairs from his bedroom in his early teens, designer and founder Antti Evävaara trained as a furniture restorer. But after setting up a successful restoration business, Evävaara realised his creative mind was focused on the future, not the past, and started designing a range of more sculptural furniture.
Releasing his first original piece, the Irma chair, in 1985, Evävaara would create many more sculptured pieces over the next 30 years. But during a meeting in a loud open-plan office, inspiration hit the Fin like a wall of sound. He realised the need for people to talk and work quietly and peacefully, within noisy and hectic environments.
During a meeting in a loud open-plan office, inspiration hit Evävaara like a wall of sound. He realised the need for people to talk and work quietly and peacefully, within noisy and hectic environments:
‘I get inspiration from observing people. I look at their behaviour and ask about their wishes and needs.’
By the turn of the century, it was clear to Evävaara that offices would become more open and work would become more remote. With faith in his own foresight, the intrepid designer stopped marketing his entire product catalogue and invested everything in developing a family of acoustic, private furniture.
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Wrapped in sound-absorbing fabric with wings of safety glass, the cosily acoustic sshhh 5 chair quietly made its way across Europe, providing a peaceful cave to work inside busy public spaces and hotel lobbies in Paris, playing audiobooks to cocooned customers in German bookstores, sharing music from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra at Gothenburg Airport and allowing frequent fliers at Frankfurt Airport to focus on work while keeping an eye on the departures board.
‘We live in interesting times in this rapidly changing world and have to find new solutions for working life’
As technology encouraged more hot-desking inside office spaces, Evävaara saw the need for a full workstation version of sshhh 5 with more privacy. Starting life as the ‘Phone Box’ concept workstation, the sshhh 1 and its younger, sleeker sister product the sshhh 11 share an important distinction from the sshhh 5. The fully enclosed booths feature a lockable glass door and acoustic felt walls, reducing distractions on all sides. The trouble with locking out the world, however, is you also lock out collaboration.
As the sshhh 1 pod includes everything housed in one simple unit, Evävaara found he could square them off and group them together to create micro-meeting rooms with separate entrances, a ventilated air supply, bacteria- and virus-protected surfaces via an LED UVC lamp, and the optional addition of an easily removable on-trend sneeze guard. Very 2020. Immune to both droplet and airborne particles, sshhh 2 and sshhh 4’s ventilation system makes them completely biosecure, keeping the bugs and the sounds out, while keeping creativity and collaboration in.
Measuring 2 x 1.5m at their largest, the phone booths and meeting rooms perhaps offer the smallest area to capacity ratio of any space imaginable. They can easily be wheeled in and out of standard elevators, gliding silently to wherever they’re needed most. Perfect for businesses with unused rooms and desks, trying to reduce their carbon footprint. But if you’re trying to reduce office size, you can’t get much smaller than employees not being there at all.
Evavaara Design’s sshhh 3 is an all-in-three home-office. The triptych-inspired remote workstation’s space-saving features are a work of art in themselves. Creating minimal desk mess, sshhh 3’s folding doors and hidden compartments are able to, literally and figuratively, close the door on work. Lined along three sides with sound-absorbing fabric and folding away to a snug 1.13m x 60cm, sshhh 3 allows workers to stay calm at home, whether at work or not.
Almost 20 years in development, the sshhh family identifies and solves problems we didn’t even know we’d have. As Antti Evävaara states, ‘We live in interesting times in this rapidly changing world and have to find new solutions for working life.’
Whatever happens, function-inspired designers like Evävaara will be at the forefront of development to meet whatever it is that uncertain future needs.