Open Spaces and Quiet Places

by Abeer Sweis
June 7, 2018
Our architecture evolves along with our lives. As our lives, on a whole, become less formal and less socially structured, so do the spaces in which we work and live. We wear far fewer suits, work far outside 9 to 5, and can work virtually anywhere. We seek out spaces where we are comfortable working on our laptop, in our yoga pants, at 1AM for example and employers have taken note. They determined the spaces in which we work needed to be adapted to accommodate our desires for better collaboration opportunities, more flexible working environments and amenities that contribute to employees’ wellbeing. These spaces are also more efficient; several workers can fit into an open space that once was an office for only one. For this reason, employers and landlords quickly embraced the open plan trend and almost altogether stopped building walls.

Perhaps they were a bit too zealous because as soon as the walls came down did employees start asking for privacy and for quiet spaces. So, some walls have gone back up creating an office space design norm that provides all the benefits of an open space work environment with the inclusion of areas to make private phone calls, spaces to meet in groups, and places to rest.

The evolution of home architecture is much the same. Cooking all meals from scratch, receiving guests in the parlor, and insisting that children be seen and not heard are no longer the norm. We now seek more family connectivity and interaction, communal activity areas, and enjoy entertaining throughout the home. As a result, formal living rooms and dining rooms are disappearing and being replaced by great rooms, dens, and open-space layouts. Kitchens, once tucked behind closed doors, are now the focus of household activities and entertaining guests.

But with the zeal for openness has come the realization that some open space plans are just too, well, open. One recent design magazine article title screamed “Can we just stop with the open floor plan?!” complaining of the lack of privacy and how clutter can be more difficult to hide. The open floor plan is here to stay, but this article’s author has a point. We need our quiet spaces. In a home a quiet space can be a “library” room or a reading nook with a comfortable chair and a table to rest a mug of coffee or glass of wine. Or a bath. Bathtubs have become a focal point of bathrooms, and the more sculptural the better. A quiet space can be a space designed for yoga or meditation, an indoor or outdoor sanctuary, a courtyard or a garden.

As for the clutter, “broken plan” layouts break the open plan using structural elements such as half-walls, seating arrangements, or shelving to divide the space. What remains are the open plan layout benefits of light, flow and communing. SweisKloss design + construct embraces the open space while honoring the human need for quiet places.

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