Office Space Reimagined: 'The End Of Sitting' Art Installation Offers Alternative To Cubicles

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the benefits of exercise by now, and nearly as good a chance you’ve heard about how prolonged sitting can negate the effects of that physical activity. This effect should hit close to home for anyone who works in an office, and types away all day on their computer (yours truly). But what are we doing to change it? Surely companies can do more to promote an active workplace; at Medical Daily, we have a standing desk rotating around the office. Taking that to another level, though, is a recent art installation in Holland called “The End of Sitting,” which is based on the idea that change shouldn’t begin with a desk and chair, but rather the entire environment.

RAAAF 2 "The End of Sitting" RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances]

It’s a rather radical idea brought to us by Rietveld Achritecture-Art Affordances (RAAAF), an experimental studio that “operates at the crossroads of architecture, art, and science,” and visual artist Barbara Visser. The space looks nothing like an office but more like a child’s play area ready for climbing. There are no desks, no seats, and no computers sitting around waiting for someone to start work on them. But that’s the whole point; workers are meant to find a nook in which their body fits perfectly, where they can work while standing, leaning, or lying down — anything but sitting, basically.

RAAAF 1 "The End of Sitting" RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances]

“Our art installation isn’t an answer to the sitting problem, but is a radical proposal to make people aware, and to challenge them [to] start thinking in a different way about our working environment,” Ronald Rietveld, a partner at RAAAF, told Medical Daily in an email.

RAAAF 3 "The End of Sitting" RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances]

Surprisingly, the installation was still conducive to a person’s well-being, according to preliminary findings. Over the course of a few days, psychologist Dr. Rob Withagen from the University of Groningen’s Center for Human Movement Sciences studied a group of young professionals as they performed different tasks in the workspace, including designing, writing, and sketching. He was looking to see how they used the space, how much they moved around, and how productive they were, when compared to a traditional office space. Overall, the participants reported a pleasant experience, which they felt was beneficial to their well-being.

Standing Affordances "The End of Sitting" RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances]

“Even though their legs were more tired, the subjects reported that they felt more energetic than after working in a traditional open office setting,” Rietveld said, adding that results on productivity and use of the structure are expected to be published in the spring.

RAAAF 4 "The End of Sitting" RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances]

Countless studies have shown how sitting is slowly setting us up for a life of more disability, as it allows heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even depression to slowly develop. One 2012 study, for example, found that people aged 45 and up who sat for 11 hours or more per day were 40 percent more at risk of dying within the next three years. People who sat for eight to 11 hours had a 15 percent higher chance of death over the next three years. Another study found sitting messes with our very DNA, shortening the length of protective caps at the end of it, called telomeres, and making us age faster.

RAAAF 5 "The End of Sitting" RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances]

It’s likely we’ll never see — or live to see — workspaces reimagined in the way “The End of Sitting” shows, but the premise is striking. If you want to be more active in your workplace, there are a number of solutions, but the easiest might be to get up and walk for five minutes at the end of every hour.

RAAAF 6 "The End of Sitting" RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances]

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