A desk/chair hybrid named Toboggan, designed for use with tablets or laptops, is the centerpiece of a new line of Knoll furniture by Antenna Design.

The steel tube and bent plywood contraption looks like a mutated public school desk--it supports a variety of sitting positions plus a place to rest a tablet or notebook.

Knoll Activity Spaces include a number of casual workspaces, including semi-secluded seating for open office plans. This image shows other pieces from the collection, which weren’t designed by Antenna.

To assuage the constant lack of power outlets, they designed a stainless steel power block that supplies a charge.

Here, the charging pole.

There are also small tables and objects that provide a charge for laptops and tablets.

There are also small tables and objects that provide a charge for laptops and tablets.

A whiteboard on wheels is another lo-fi accessory.

The pieces are designed to be moved around as needed.

A view of the toboggan chair with the power pole.

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Office Furniture Designed To Spark Inspiring, Random Encounters

Antenna’s new line for Knoll is purpose-built for the spontaneous work encounters that often spark innovation.

By now, the concept of "spontaneous collaboration space" in the office is starting to fray around the edges. Despite the proliferation of zany themed meeting rooms, sofas, and bars in the workplace, there’s still no recipe for engineering the random encounters and unplanned work that can lead to breakthroughs. "Architects will often specify residential furniture like coffee tables and couches," says Sigi Moeslinger, one half of Antenna Design. "But spontaneous work still requires work space."

Moeslinger and her partner, Masamichi Udagawa, have designed Bloomberg terminals, MTA New York City subway cars, and JetBlue check-in kiosks. But for their latest project, the Japanese-Austrian duo bypassed screens and addressed the people who use them. Activity Spaces, a line of furniture Antenna designed for Knoll, is designed for mobile employees who are no longer tied to a desktop, relying on tablets or phones instead. "Many people don’t have a main computer anymore," says Udagawa. "But generally, we still need a place to sit and put something."

Activity Spaces is built around a desk/chair hybrid named Toboggan. The steel tube and bent plywood contraption looks like a mutated public school desk—its legs wrap in a C from the desk to the ground up to the integrated stool, creating a lightweight structure that supports a variety of sitting positions plus a place to rest a tablet or notebook. "It’s a kind of strange object, and we weren’t sure how people would interact with it" says Moeslinger. But an introduction at NeoCon last year left Antenna pleasantly surprised: "People would just intuitively take breaks to check their phones," she remembers. "They got into it right away."

The lightweight Toboggans are designed to be moved and rearranged throughout the office, which introduced another problem: the inevitable lack of power outlets. So they designed a stainless steel pole dotted with outlets that supplies a charge wherever it’s wheeled. Other pieces, like a rolling whiteboard and small tables that also provide a charge for laptops, also promote mobility within the office. The idea is to create a spectrum of spaces within the office, rather than the conventional binary of being at your desk or in a meeting.

In an unexpected way, Antenna’s expertise in interaction design is what makes these plywood-and-plastic objects so intelligent. It’s not so much about the screen, but rather how and where it’s being used. "We approach furniture as an interface," Udagawa told me. "It can modify behavior, and help people make the transition into more open space."

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  • Arcesio636

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  • JBo796

    yeh...that's great and all, but first, you have to get your company to give a shit.

  • M. Mastrangeli

    I apologise maybe I am too old to appreciate this new style but tobogan seems to be real uncomfortable, without any attractive design style, against the simpliest ergonomic rules, with two main advantages:
    1) Preventing people to stay seating for a long time
    2) Reducing the office or meeting room
    Should future trends in office concept go in the direction endorsed in tobogan design idea, I think people will prefer working from home or car, but maybe this is exactly the aim.

  • Angela Wyman

    Did they field test these before releasing? The Toboggan has no back support, not enough seat area, so you see 'butt overhang' in the photos, which feels about as good as it sounds. Good luck finding seat cushions that work on that shape. My old school chair at least had carved out a recessed seat shape in the plywood for more comfort.Most women don't want to straddle their furniture, and it looks like you can't cross your legs while working on your laptop. I could understand the appeal of the tubular steel: it's like bicycles! But, oddly you can't adjust the height of the table to chair, which you would expect in this type of manufacturing. This rules these out for larger heavyset people, you know... like those sedentary types who work on laptops.There is a lot of floor space being taken by the steel tubes, so your feet will be resting on them or trying to avoid them. That's a good opportunity for sensory feedback, a foot rest or some other comforting detail. I like to tip my chairs, but that option is out. 

    Compare this to a large table with some chairs around it, and I'll show you which space is more inviting to people congregating.

  • krzystoff_oz

    the Toboggans are ugly, utilitarian and would not fit into any professional office space, but perhaps for a university student space on a tight budget, the poor ergonomics and compromised aethetic could be ignored.  obviously they are a conceptual design at this stage.  the other Knoll examples are solid, workable pieces though and may be more usable in their current form. 
    I wonder why they didn't simply opt for simple integrated USB ports than generic power pole outlets, most tablet and phone users and even laptops can get a little charge from those, without lugging around a tonne of cables and adaptors.

  • Marcie Fitz

    The Tobogans have quite an interesting design. It definitely sparks conversation and promotes interaction between people.  By changing workplace furniture, a new culture can develop.  Creating a strong and different company culture is a popular idea found amongst top companies worldwide such as Google and Zappos.  These two brands are known for thinking outside the box within office walls.  Transforming traditional furniture makes the space more inviting, whether workers find it to be comfortable or not.  Conventional workers may find it unattractive but younger generations may find it fun and more upbeat.  This comfort vs. discomfort can cause a great change in pace.  Whether or not the exact designs work, the idea driving it can spark innovation and motivation.

  • Renato Vargas

    It seems to me that those Tobogans lack raised edges or some sort of security feature for electronics. With such a small surface area, Someone´s iPad is bound to get caught on someone´s coat/jacket/backpack strap/scarf and end up on the floor.

    Also, that guy at the power-outletted coffee table is going to have terrible back aches if they don´t, either raise the height of the thing, or lower the chairs to couch height.

    The whiteboards on wheels are awesome. I want two.

  • Misterworms

    The hunched-over people in that last photo made me cringe. How about a counter-height design? Preserve good posture by standing and no chairs are required. Plus, being more active helps the ol' noggin work better furthering the goal of "sparking inspiration."