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Are Optimized Office Cubicles Curvy?

It’s interesting to note the ways that architecture and office cubicles mimic each other. In April, published an article about the construction underway in the central business district in Shanghai near the Hong Qiao Airport. The new edifices are described as having “optimized forms”. This means the designers have found the sweet spot between maximum indoor space with a square shape floor plan and the most efficient façade (which would be circular).

The buildings are basically square with rounded corners to give them a streamlined shape. The structures are of varying size and heights, and they won’t be laid out on a grid. Instead, they are positioned in a more organic layout as if they grew up from the ground. To add to the naturalistic appearance, each building will be topped with a living roof of indigenous greenery. The entire area is architected to encourage pedestrian activity in a comfortable setting.

NeoCon Participants Showcase Similar Trend

We can’t help but notice that a number of the cubicle systems in the Best of NeoCon contest also featured rounded corners. The Workbay by Vitra and Senda by Riviera are a couple of examples.  This new breed of work enclosure isn’t so much traditional workstations as “casual cubicle”. Both designs are intended as a supplement for open office layouts as touch down spots or private booths for work that requires extra concentration. The companies that created these products also point out the advantages of streamlined shapes and the fact that their curvy cubes don’t impede the flow of traffic in the workplace. We expect to see more wavy shapes and perhaps even some squiggles making it into the workplace in the coming years.

Are There Disadvantages to Round-Corner Designs?

There can be. For example, they aren’t as modular. When you have cubicle panels joined by right angles, adding or reducing space is much easier. That’s one reason most of the curved designs are intended to house just a single occupant or a very temporary team of two. Reconfiguration usually means shifting the whole pod to a new location rather than changing its size and shape. It may also be more difficult to create a matched look between the open office and private offices – something that’s not a problem with most of the furniture systems from the big office furniture manufacturers. So from an optimization standpoint, the amount of curvature that’s appropriate for your workspace will depend on how much flexibility you want.


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