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Combo Intelligent Nomadic Workstation

Master Thesis of Elina Busmane 2010

Combo Intelligent Nomadic Workstation

Aalto University School of Art and Design Furniture Design department Master Thesis of Elina Busmane 2010 3

Abstract Author: Elina Busmane Major subject: Furniture Design Minor subject: Creative Sustainability Title: Intelligent Nomadic Workplace Tutor: Esa Vesmanen This master’s thesis in furniture design is about contemporary working. The focus is on the working in the public space. The thesis consists of three parts. The first, theoretical part is based on historical research and creates a background for the designing itself. It deals with the development of the office in the 20th century and also looks at current working conditions. As contemporary work depends on technology, it is important to understand its role. I collaborated with Powerkiss Oy for my thesis project. This Finnish company developed a wireless charging technology for portable devices, so my final work includes embedded technology – intelligent furniture. The second part is the design development. It was important to see how people work in public space and also know what they consider to be good working conditions. I developed a questionnaire and observations were done. The assessment is a conclusion from this background information and a response to the field studies. The design process consists of several stages: scale modeling, mockup, and prototype production. The third part is a presentation of the prototype. Photography shows the possible uses. Drawings identify the dimensions. Intelligent Nomadic Workplace is a furniture unit for creative collaboration in public space that creates a platform for sharing knowledge and experience. Keywords: workstation, work environment, intelligent furniture, furniture for public space




Thesis Index Introduction Context and statement of the problem Purpose of the study Thesis objectives Theoretical perspective Limitations of the study Background studies Chronology of the Office The development of the Office Office of the first decade of the 21st Century Time, society and innovations Nomadic working and workers Intelligent furniture Design development 21 inspiring place Observations From trends to design drivers Definition of the design assessment Functions of the Nomadic Workplace Design takes shape Scale modeling Mockup Materials and colours Prototype production Intelligent Nomadic Workplace Photos of final prototype Drawings of the workstation Conclusion Results Proposing for further solutions Evaluating the project outcome Credits Acknowledgements References

10 11 13 13 14 16 18 20 22 25 27 30 34 35 37 39 40 47 49 56 60 68 74 80 81 82





Context and statement of the problem This Master Thesis is about contemporary working. Recent development of the technologies has enabled mobility and flexibility of the working environment. Broad access to Wireless Internet, plus portable of computers and phones, create opportunity to work almost from everywhere. A shift from Industrial era to the Post-industrial era in Europe eliminates the need for planning and managing departments to be near by industry. Actually, the work organization goes back to the pre-industrial era, where people were working in their own homes or in the small workshops. The difference is that nowadays-digital networks organize the connections. These developments lead to the question: what does work means in the first decades of the 21st century? Whether these are people with the direct task, an office space or the computers? What are the relations and proportions amongst these ingredients? I wanted to research the conditions using theoretical and practical methods with an aim to design a new workplace unit for the public space.


Purpose of the study The recent economic recession and emergence of tele-working, freelancing and part-time jobs increased the number of people outside the traditional office, therefore I was interested to design an alternative workplace. While attending a meeting of the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, I saw the presentation of the Finnish wireless charging company Powerkiss. The technology seemed to be appropriate for the workstation, so I met with Maija Itkonen, CEO of the Powerkiss, and introduced her to my interest in the work environment, coincided with those of Powerkiss. I decided to follow her suggestion to focus on public spaces, and I began my research on nomadic working and intelligent furniture. Research about these issues on the future work environment formed the topic of the thesis – Intelligent Nomadic Workplace. This Master thesis is also the resumes my previous studies and the formulation of dominating concerns in my designs. The foot-warmer Footchat (2005) was created during my Bachelor studies in the Art Academy of Latvia. It uses human warmth and the common activity of warming cold feet instead without electric devices. As feet are important nerve centers, this activity provides a special experience that is personal indeed. Designing this object, I faced the interaction possibilities that physical objects provide to humans. The collection Saint Tables (2008) was my Bachelor theses work in the Art Academy of Latvia. The project consisted of 4 types of tables for the meeting hall of the Lutheran parish house. The prototype completed was the altar. I realized the strong relation between material and immaterial world and how the simple materials and symbolic shapes can create a piece that turns a space into a sacral environment. The modular sofa system Neighbors (2009) was designed during my Master studies at Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu. It provides the unique privacy and communication conditions that are arranged by seat units with a side table and the walls. This project dealt with how the relations of surfaces in space

1.Foot warmer Footchat, 2006

2. Altar Saint Tables, 2008

3. Modular sofa Neighbors, 2009


affect the relations of humans in space. The design assessments in the previously mentioned designs were completely different, but the designing perspective and common characteristics are similar: human interaction in space that is organized by simple shapes with a strong character. Design is a complex discipline with a broad range of values. Furniture has a strong impact on the human mindset. There are several world-known examples that reveal the power of the furniture design. Charles and Ray Eames, a husband-and-wife team, gave shape to America’s twentieth century. Even if the designers with social mission are viewed ambiguously today, the significance of Eameses’ amongst designers, businessmen, and government leaders is undeniable. They designed furniture, toys, buildings, films, graphics, exhibitions, and books all aimed to improve society - not only functionally but also culturally and intellectually. In this way they were completely involved in building America. The ability for the creative professionals to take active steps toward development on the national level, plus the creation of the valuebased society, is admirable. The other example that presents the power of furniture design is IKEA. This phenomenon has changed global attitude toward furniture and home arrangements. Their approach to selling objects impacted human behavior and social values. Their 300-page catalogue is mailed over 180 million people in 27 different languages. Each year, there are more copies of the IKEA catalogue printed than the Bible (Mental Floss, 10/08/2009). These activities are not just an issue of selling more, but the yellow on the blue logo leaves imprint on the human subconscious. Searching for information about IKEA politics I accidently found an interesting comparison in the social self-support webpage. There was a question in the article, weather the high divorce rate in Sweden is somehow connected to IKEA and H&M. Products of these brands are short-lived. Swedes are not staying married for very long. The author of the article states, that Swedes trade in their marriages almost as fast as they trade in their outfits and furniture. The marriages that come of age in the era of IKEA and H&M are mimicking one of the negative images of the brands – transiency (Divorce Salon, 23/11/2009). The IKEA phenomena approves that the contemporary society is lacking not only sustainable products, but also the ability to sustain the general values that guarantee the existence of the mankind. The Eames and IKEA examples shows, how the furniture industry created the today’s world. Design is an essential tool for industries and organizations. It is important to understand that the design profession not only fulfills individual requirements, but also shapes the world for the next generations. Design is a communication of the values in the way of products or experiences.


4. Charles and Ray Eames


Thesis objectives The main goal of my Master Thesis was to create a prototype of a workstation unit for public space with an embedded wireless charging technology. My focus in furniture design is human well being. I believe, that only design, where in consideration are taken different aspects: social, aesthetic, ergonomic, sensible, ecologically responsible, and simple - can find its place amongst things that are needed in everyday life. One of the main objectives was to realize the context for the work environments, which has undergone tremendous development during the 20th century. Studies of the history and future trends were needed, as well as a look at related fields, such as, technology development. Design cannot be developed just theoretically or conceptually. Without a connection to real life and conditions, it is not possible to create design that is a matter-of-fact. My practical research is based on curiosity, empathy and analysis. The designer is a sponge, obtaining related information, capturing the imagination to something, and finding better than the existing solutions. When the information and background is set the actual design process can take the place. The most creative part of the design development process happens when previous studies about functions, materials and production work together. The process of giving shape demands decision making at every step, starting from general dimensions, until the last screw.

Theoretical perspective Before designing a new piece of furniture, thoughts about the future of the design and how far the designer can predict the coming issues are always in my mind. Thanks to courses at Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu and the Creative Sustainability minor program, I have been able to learn the means of sustainable design. One of the most significant theories is the cradle to cradle thinking. Architect William McDonough, and chemist Michael Braungart encourage designers and industries to develop a new paradigm about nature and commerce. They start by challenging the idea of reduce, reuse, recycle (or doing more with less in order to minimize damage). The book has become a cornerstone for the theories of sustainability and introduces with the 3E thinking. Ecology,

6.Environmental, Social and Economic triangle


economics and equity should be in balance for every new invention (Braungardt, McDonough, p 150, 2002). In the design of the intelligent nomadic workplace my I focus on social aspects of the furniture, but other aspects of the sustainability are considered during the design process as well. I balance usage of space, human interactions, and technological units. The goal, or the satisfaction unit, is to guarantee psychosocial health of individuals in a society of information technologies. Other important issues emphasized during my studies are ergonomics and rational production methods. Ergonomics cannot be understood merely from theoretical information and standards. For furniture with a specific usage, there should be test versions of the functions and ergonomics in 1:1 scale, I investigated this by making mockups of detail and joints in various proportions.

Limitations of the study As I was developing a workstation for the work with laptops, the possibility to charge laptops from this workstation unit would be more useful than only mobile phone charging. This option is under the development at the Powerkiss.


Background studies




A. Larkin Administration Building, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright.1903–1905 B. Bauhaus workshops, Dessau Bauhaus director’s office.1925-1926 C. Johnson-Wax Administration Building, Racine, Frank Lloyd Wright,1937–1939 D. Union Carbide Building, New York, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.1960 E. Action Office 2, Herman Miller Design.1968-76









F. Centraal Beheer, Apeldoorn, Herman Hertzberger.1970–1973 G. Ethospace,Herman Miller Design.1990 H. Chiat/Day offices, New York,Geatano Pesce.1994-1995 I. Joyn for Vitra, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. 2002


The Development of the Office The Office experienced tremendous development during 20th Century. Designs display changing relations between the actual physical environment, management and tools that support the work. Office culture began during the last decades of 19th century to support the needs of developing industries. Post 1950 design saw development that later led to globalization and information technologies. In the following chapter, I have summarized the main characteristics of each decade. The very useful information source was the book, issued occasionally for the exhibition Workspheres in MoMA, 2001. In this book Christopher Budd describes the specifics of each decade. 1950 to 1960 Different approaches to the office development formed in the United States and Germany, but both are based on the ”rise of management theory, technological innovations and economic shifts...theorists emphasized controlling, monitoring and commanding the personnel”(C.Budd, 2001 p. 28). At that time a group of American architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merill, designed offices for the Carbide Building in New York City. These well proportioned, and illuminated glass boxes became an example for future office interior designs (C.Budd, 2001 p. 27). German management consultants, the Quickbourner group, developed a different solution. This solution seems more informal, but is communication and collaboration oriented and therefore relevant to human needs. The Bürolandschaft contains a high level of transparency that allows governing persons to control the space. The ignorance of privacy was the weakest point of Bürolandschaft and many contemporary office solutions are facing the same inconveniences (C.Budd, 2001 p. 29). 1960 to 1970 Another physical change of office layout was also based on findings in human behavior. In the 1960’s theorist R. Probst worked with Herman Miller Furniture Company to emphasized the importance of individual contribution and


personal achievements of each employee to space design (C.Budd, 2001 p. 29). The aim was to develop a harmonic solution that provides privacy, sound insulation and accessibility. Private housing inspired the solution of a cubicle. Regrettably, this solution increased impersonality (C.Budd, 2001 p. 29). 1970 to 1980 The lack of private space for unrestricted collaboration was the reason cubicles did not succeed. The need for new solutions arose (C.Budd, 2001 p. 30). One new approach there came in the design of Central Beheer Office Building in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. The most remarkable difference from the planning viewpoint was the emphasis on group spaces designed to stimulate the behavior of employees as a unit (C.Budd, 2001 p. 30). Utilities were incorporated into the building walls, allowing furniture to keep simplicity and personality; while Herman Miller worked on implementing technology (C.Budd, 2001 p. 30). 1980 to 1990 The article Your Office is Where You Are by P. Stone and R. Luchetti became an ideological source for upcoming inventions. Referring to these authors, Christopher Budd explains that office spaces can support working philosophy but not actually create it. The office changed to allow groups of employees to select the most convenient space for accomplishing planned tasks (C.Budd, 2001 p. 32). Major change during this time was increase personal computer users at offices. This change demanded new technical solutions for the work environment. Herman Miller’s Ethospace, by designer William Stumpf, allows the office to be variable and individualized, with character that is different from previous formal cubicle or glass structure solutions (C.Budd, 2001 p. 33). 1990 to 2000 The term Alternative Officing was developed by specialists in architecture, research and environmental psychology: F. Duffy, F. Becker, F.Steel and M. Brill (C.Budd, 2001 p. 33). It presented a completely new view of the work process and management. New technologies, such as wireless solutions, mobile phones and Internet, enable working everywhere and at any time. The emphasis shifted from to interaction and communication, networking and collaboration (C.Budd, 2001 p. 34). Business always seeks benefits, and they saw the emergence of teleworking as a possibility for cutting down rental prices. The most popular example of Alternative Officing is the Chiat/Day office by Geatano Pesce that supported co-work. This completely original solution stressed contemporary values – personal motivation, individual expression


and group working. This concept did not succeed for several reasons, but the main one was a problem to concentrate on work in this extremely attractive environment (C.Budd, 2001 p. 34). In this decade the importance of creating an innovation became more significant in new office designs (C.Budd, 2001 p. 34).

Office of the first decade of the 21st Century Functions of the Office The purpose of the office has always been mainly information management, organized by different means.The era of digitalizing information started with1980’s. The most used tools today are: computers, mobile phones and the Internet. Their efficiency is guaranteed by processing speeds, extensive storage capacity, significantly lower requirements in terms of working materials, computation of processes and radical improvements to communication processes. All kinds of textual, numeric, graphic, sound or video can be easily edited and stored or transferred. Office today means digital network (local or the Internet) and a digital data storage site that is freely accessible for all the workers. Filing systems, folders, balance sheet books, dictionaries and other printed sources of reference are now less important, as all of these can be accessed through a laptop (Bene, 29/09/2009). Space is the Information Recent phenomenon such as globalization and digitization has led companies to moving towards an era of service companies of knowledge and information. Living in the time when sustainability and eco-efficient solutions are required from every new design, the main task is to enable communication of the people’s emotional and intellectual potential in a global scale (Bene, 29/09/2009). The Internet and digital data, managed by portable devices, provide a possibility to create networks and digital communication regardless of the location. Office as a space has lost its meaning. Office is now where ever the information is accessible. The Digital Office Development of portable devices such as the laptop and the mobile phone provides the possibility to access up-to-date company data from digital


7.Office of software application Skype, Tallin. 2006

databases and essential work aids in the form of digital encyclopedias, electronic dictionaries and the Internet. Digital offices are also eco-efficient as they optimize energy resources for both the office and the office building, use less paper, and more high-performance tools, and are generally structured into areas for work, politics and ecology. They are an excellent means of working both locally and on a global level. As the digital office has developed into a knowledge centre and a hub on the World Wide Web, the tools have become extremely small and efficient. A new type of office – the open office – has emerged alongside traditional offices, where both space and time are flexible (Bene, 29/09/2009). The Open Office Open offices are subordinates of the digital office. The laptop acts as both a table and a repository; it can be carried around everywhere and can transform a basic space into a complete and remote office. The open office embodies new tasks as well as new work processes. Digitalization has freed office work from its fixed office hours, fixed locations and schematic work processes. The laptop has had a direct impact upon the structure of the office. Many computerized office activities have added the impetus to designing office spaces that are both open and mobile (Bene, 29/09/2009). The speed and diversity of digital communications means that the priorities in terms of office processes can be individually defined and adapted according to personal preferences. There are several sub-forms of the office today: virtual office, temporary office and desk-sharing office. The virtual office is an online portal where teams meet and carry out different working tasks. It enables virtual conferences where all the participants are based at different locations. The temporary office is ideal for teams who meet regularly at different locations and previously need to reserve an actual room for a certain period of time. The necessary office equipment only includes the essentials, giving these offices a rather austere character. The desk-sharing office means there are fewer workstations than employees, as several employees share one workstation. This is a practical solution for companies whose employees are often traveling, thereby providing them with open offices that offer a flexible approach to working hours and enable them to work from different locations. The everyday office life means taking advantage of previously unused areas outside the office (such as breakfast cafeteria or lunch place), providing space where employees can meet for informal and creative exchange in peaceful surroundings where they can feel inspired and motivated. The office is facing rapid changes and becoming more flexible as ideas about

8. Advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, New York. 2008


the term office expand. Still the physical conditions for a longer work period are inadequate in these temporary workplaces. The open office has changed from the constant and typical workplace that formed in 20th century into hubs for social and global working and communication (Bene, 29/09/2009).

Time, Society and Innovations Creative Class American sociologist Richard Florida in his book “The Rise of the Creative Class” (2002) argues, that economic growth comes from innovation. This leads to new products, optimized processes and new insights (Washington Monthly, 05/2002). The developers of those are not only traditional creative industries as designers, advertisers, architects, musicians, artists or movie producers, but members of any profession, ready to create and to find extraordinary solutions. Since the year 2000 there has rapidly grown the number of patents. This affirms the importance of the creativity in business. Cities, companies and communities have to create environments that provide the necessary conditions for attracting creative class workers. Florida identifies three factors that have a major influence on creative personalities: technology, talent and tolerance (Washington Monthly, 05/2002). Tolerance means openness and receptiveness for something new. The means that tie together creative class workers are a high level of autonomy and flexibility, along with the ability to deal with a range of conflicting challenges. In self-employment, for example, flexibility becomes a constraint. The time flows In the article “Designing The Space Flows” for the book “Workspheres ”, published on the occasion of the exhibition Workshperes in the Museum of The Modern Art, 2001, John Thackara writes about attitude towards time nowadays. The idea of design researcher is perfectly defined by the artist Eugene Delacroix “we work not just to produce, but to give value to time”. Work is not just about earning money to consume, it is also strongly related to our self-consciousness, work creates a sense of belonging and a reason for being (Thackara p.43, 2001). Laura Oslapas in the same book Workshpheres states: “we are overly focused on creating more and more devices that assist us in managing our time. These devices, we think, will help us to balance life and work. Although the boundaries between work and home have been unclear for centuries, they became quite rigid during the past century. Given the proliferation of services


9. Creative working at startup event “Slush, Helsinki”, 2009

10. Everyday tools for time management

and devices that allow these boundaries to overlap, we must manage the boundaries between work and life more overtly ” (Oslapas p.44, 2001). The organization of the contemporary work environment demands more selfcontrol, setting of boundaries and an understanding the importance of well being, over excessive working. The ability of the designer is to create a nudge towards the desirable balance. Mind-body business Recent technologies allow us to communicate around the world from the living room or cafeteria. Simple programs, such as Skype, provide an option for video calling and conferencing. All that is needed is a good Internet connection and a laptop with a built in camera. People are able to follow other’s lives without an actual presence (Thackara p.38, 2001). Telecommunication and technology companies are investing large amounts of money to develop and upgrade means of communicating using different networks, but there is nothing that can replace mind-body business. People are beings the sense of reality and it is hard to believe that any deal will succeed without a handshake amongst the partners (Thackara p.38, 2001). Learning and innovations For the successful working there is a need for a constant information exchange and learning. That is possible only in conditions where the cultural qualities of the time and place are taken into an account. Thackara emphasizes the importance of our communicative nature: “learning, at all levels, relies ultimately on personal interaction, and, in particular, on a range of implicit and peripheral forms of communication”(Thackara p.39, 2001). This new knowledge management is reflected by recent changes in the Finnish education. Since the January 2010 the combination of Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics and University of Art and Design Helsinki merged into one – Aalto University. The new Aalto University provides new possibilities for strong multi-disciplinary education. In the previously mentioned article John Thackara is quoting the Nobel laureate Murray Gell Mann ”innovation is an emergent phenomenon that happens when an organization fosters interaction between different kinds of people and disparate forms of knowledge. A new task for design is to increase the flow of information within and between the communities.” (Thackara p.40, 2001).

11. Entrepreuners at startup event “Slush Helsinki”, 2009


The hybrid space The beginning of the 21st century started with the term of “parallel world” – virtual and the real. Now the attitude is changed and merged into one, more dimensional and complex, a hybrid space (Thackara p.40, 2001). The importance of virtual performance becomes the main tool for recognition and networking. Social networks and Internet browsers are important information channels where the latest information has a high value. Writing about the changes in the space planning, Thackara points out that designers need to learn how to map the way communications flow in different communities and different scales: the many ways people build relationships, articulate their needs and fears, or exchange feelings with friends or family (Thackara p.40, 2001). “Workplace design that fosters continuously changing and complex knowledge relationships and flows is the new priority” (Thackara p.40, 2001). Designing the human behavior In the issue of November 2009 in the magazine Business of Design writer and design seminar producer Aidan Walker, observes the one of the latest designs for the office by British PearsonLloyd for Austrian manufacturer Bene. Behind the actual design there are serious studies, research and observations. Walker claims that the new task of the designer is to design a human behavior itself. Only then comes the design of the product. Four types of the spaces new office furniture should include - “private personal”, “private collaborative”, “communal personal” and “communal collaborative space”. Designers at PersonLloyd have researched how groups tend to act and arrange particular spaces, starting with the Dogon tribe in Mali until the contemporary office with high-performance technologies. Aidan Walker concludes, “Design is not really about the objects anyway, but about the interaction, the behavior, the outcome” (Walker, p.90 and 91, 2009).

12.Office furniture “Parcs“, designed by PearsonLloyd, 2009


Nomadic Working and Workers Global changes and the development of information technology foster mobility in different spheres of human lives. The phenomenon is well formulated in the research of Alternative Officing Strategies at Steelcase Company “Everyone in the global economy is looking for ways to do things faster, better, cheaper. Today, change happens at lightning speed and nimble organizations have the advantage” (One Workplace, 06/2000). The Workspheres exhibition held at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2001examined the changing nature of the workplace and the role of design in creating effective solutions to accommodate these changes. The topic of the Nomadic Working is tackled in several articles of the book. The curator of the exhibition Paola Antonelli identifies the workers who spend much time outside the office “nomadic workers range from traveling salesman and consultants to couriers and executives of multinational companies ” (Antonelli, 2001 p.132). Nomadic workers use portable devices, such as laptops or other web browsing or digital data storage devices, mobile phones and navigators. The technology used determines the required support of the space, Wireless and Internet, and electricity outlets for charging. Also required are good location and atmosphere, plus nearby services such as food, and restroom. There are several significant advantages to nomadic working. First it is advantageous for creative class workers. The flexibility of information technologies and the provided opportunity to stay connected make it is possible to work wherever the conditions around stimulate the ability of the mind to concentrate on working, whether in a cozy cafeteria or an airport. Still there are few qualities of the environment that nomadic workers are looking for. The most important is the privacy. Eliron Koronyo has worked on this issue in his thesis project at the Parsons School of Design in New York. In this project designer aimed to “provide privacy and comfort without compromising the need for security and surveillance”(Antonelli p 139, 2001). Even if the starting point is very relevant to nomadic working, there are issues that seem conflicting for me. “Ground Zero“provides an individual space, only because of the enclosures in the both sides. For me it seems more appropriate to guarantee the privacy by furniture organizes people to form groups in the space, rather than building walls and making windows for transparency. The next concept for nomadic working is a design by Sofia Anna Varanka Hudson, under the title Field Office, 1999. In this case the designer deals with the issues of mobility. She has designed a workstation that collapses

13. Helsinki Vantaa Airport, 2009

14. E. Koronyo, Ground Zero: Privacy in Public Space, 2000


into a backpack. The telescopic legs offer a possibility to lean the unit against any vertical surface (Antonelli p152-153, 2001). Design clearly presents the general idea of nomadic working, but if the actual usage would be considered deeper, the result might be more realistic. People tend to carry with them only essentially important things. Thanks to compactness of information technology, today a comfortable laptop bag for computer and personal belongings is completely enough. Things people normally carry with them are: a mobile phone, a laptop and external drive or other digital data storage, chargers, a mouse, a digital camera, wallet, notebook or diary and a device for listening the music. This equipment already contains more or less 5 kilograms. It is doubtful a person there would need to carry any kind of working surface. People can find surfaces that are convenient for working in the public space, but how suitable are these places? My explorations in Helsinki Vantaa airport proved that those areas in public space meant for common usage should be appropriate for the actual needs of users. Existing transport nodes, such as airports and train stations, are providing mainly consumption-based opportunities, instead people need to organize their lives and communicate using Internet services and communication networks. There is a change in human behavior from consuming products to using services, unfortunately in practice these changes are generally not considered. A change is needed in the approach to designing or re-designing these spaces and services. The design is no longer only about dimensions, people flow and services. There is a need to design the whole experience. Design for human behavior that empowers people to feel safe and equal.

15. S. A. Varanka Hudson, Field Office, 1999

16. S. A. Varanka Hudson, Field Office, 1999


Intelligent Furniture Intelligent Furniture is objects with shape or functions similar to furniture, but accomplished with embedded technologies. It creates interactive and multifunctional means of seamlessly enhancing ordinary activity. One of the driving forces behind this emerging interest in highly interactive environments is to make technology both genuinely user-friendly and also essentially to the user. Enabling to control Reasons for creating Intelligent Furniture are response to the global processes, where the use of technology is becoming more important. The goal here is also to allow technology to take part in activities where it was never previously involved and allow people to interact with their environment via gesture, voice, movement, and context. This is one way of upgrading and improving everyday objects, plus creating added value. However, these solutions do not always work in a way that improves the actual design. Companies, who are working on technology, try to to influence human behavior in an indirect way. The aim of Philips, for example, is clearly displayed in the conclusions of the Intelligence HomeLab research: “Once people realize the benefits of new technology, they begin to trust it. Once they trust it, they become comfortable with it. And once they become comfortable with it, it changes their lives” (Philips 2006). Following are very different examples of furniture with with embedded technology. It is not possible always call this furniture intelligent due to several issues. My aim is to look at these concepts to understand reasons for a success or failures. Table – solar energy provider Intelligent Forms Design, a company located in USA is offering a table with embedded technology. The solar panels are placed in between tempered glass panels, and provide over 17 kilowatts of solar energy per year. The solar table charges small devices – iPod, 40 iPhone charges per day and 3 laptop computers can be charged per day. The table costs are equivalent for geothermal heating system for an average size individual house. These facts clearly display the irrationality of furniture as a clean energy source. The company is sustainably aware by focusing clean energy, but the actual table is far from a sustainable solution.

17. Solo Lounge Table, Intelligentforms. 2008

18. Solo Lounge Table, Intelligentforms. 2008


Sofa - media mash up The “Music Sofa” by Giongkun Wuqiongkun is sofa with a built-in CD player and wireless speakers that can stream MP3 audio from an audio system within range. According to Yanko Design, aesthetics don’t have to be sacrificed in the process (Crave, 23/03/ 2007). Is there any idea behind this design except uniting two functions in one piece? The shape recalls1960s space age capsule and pod-shaped furniture, which raises the question why does design related with technology, always appear this way? Who are the possible users? Workplace – space of relationships Personal Skies by by IDEO designer Naoto Fukasawa is one of six commissioned works appearing in Workspheres, the exhibition presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Personal Skies is a collection of nine concepts that explore the theme of individuality in the context of corporate culture. Two of these concepts, Cut Skies/Under Someone’s Sky and A Chair with a Soul Left Behind, were fully realized as working installations by IDEO for the Workspheres exhibition. In this project Naoto Fukasawa explores notions of behavior in the object through simple interaction elements such as LED-based ambient displays. He uses iconic objects and embedded technology to explore our relationship with the technology of communication and our presence in space. This method of creating an environment with technology and respect for psychological and emotional behavior is an outstanding example of conscious observation leading to insights about potential relationships and objects that have meaning and relevance (Tim Brown, p 227, 2007). Behind the furniture and technology These examples present different approaches to intelligent furniture. Still, the success or acceptance of design from the user’s perspective is possible only if there are careful user studies done beforehand. During product development, the designer should have a clear idea of the backbone of the project. Design should not be based only on the adding more functions. It is important to work on human-centered design rather than only marketing activities. Otherwise many meaningless and expensive objects are produced that never find their place amongst people.


19. Music Sofa, G.Wuqiongkun. 2007

20. Personal Skies, N. Fukasawa. 2000

Design Development


21 inspiring place

The dominating words of the survey:

light and lightness creative and encouraging people

To create design that responds to the actual needs of users, there is a need to look into human lives. People are complex beings and do not always share their thoughts. The most reliable information comes from the subconscious. It is possible to look into the human subconscious by asking an indirect, but subject-related question. My interest is the conditions people desire in the workplace. I asked forty people to send a picture and one descriptive sentence of the place the find the most inspiring. I received 20 answers that give insight into human thinking in my area of interest.


greenery and nature window mobility

good technical equipment oxygen

presence of the history

safety and security physical space digital space a

bit of bright colours

moment for rest and relax Internet

Female, 24, Latvia Lively and encouraging people, who see my potential, inspire me. A good coffee, what is a part of my everyday and helps to obtain working and thinking mood. Recently I find a classic music a compelling background. Another thing is nature and plants they should be around to make the space livelier. There should be windows in the room, that it is possible to have a rest for my eyes.


Female, 22, Japan There is a half closed place so that I think I can concentrate on my work even in a public place if I’m sitting on the ball chair.

Female, 28, Egypt In this picture there is the EL-Moaz Street, Cairo (the oldest street in medieval Cairo). I find this place inspiring because I feel the dynamic of the city and the glory of the past. As I am an architect, presence of the past makes me believe that I can change the future of the city.

Female, 26, Latvia Creative, open-minded and passionate people are the main source of the inspiration for me. It is important to have a rest time to time. A trip to an unknown place or a walk into fresh air always helps, but the inspiration comes from people. It comes unexpected and there are no rules how to obtain it.

Female, 24, Latvia For an inspiration I am looking for a minimalistic and ascetic environment .Very important is to have a large window as a source of light. Everything should be in order, only needed papers on the table. The table should be mobile to change a location when it is needed. To conclude: order in shapes, laconism in colors and freedom for movements.

Female, 44, Latvia My workplace at night, early mornings and during the weekend is bed. The special thing about it is the fact that there is a lot of space and you are not limited in the same position. Intriguing in the possibility of the Internet and a connection with the world from the bedroom.

Female, 39, USA I like to start working with a large, clean flat surface in front of a window with a view. I work best when I get up and make tea, then sit down to work just before sunrise and watch the sun slowly light up the world. Day is most full of potential at this moment. Plus, the zinnia curtains have traveled from St. Louis to Portland to Helsinki. The bright colors make me happy.

Male, 26, UK The word ‘create’ associates with my Mac Pro which I use the produce various projects. My Mac is in my room; therefore it is the place I have to find inspiration for ideas. My creativeness to a large extent is not so much linked with a physical space but it has more to do with digital space e.g. my Mac’s powerfulness to chew up the task I throw at it.

Male, 25, Latvia This is the picture of the Google offices that shows similar type of environment I find inspiring. The environment that motivates to work means good quality and more or less modern equipment and layout. There should be a place for effective working and also a place where to rest and relax.


Male, 84, Latvia Being an engineer I have improved my home for my hobby that is photographing, editing the images and making the slide shows. It would be very nice if I could see that sort of view as on the picture from my window, than I would be able to accomplish my other hobby that is spinning more often. Especially enjoyable the even is when I can take someone with me.

Female, 24, Latvia This is the picture of the cafeteria in the Old Riga. Creativity comes impulsively to me… this place as it reminds me a feeling of home that is simple and charming at the same time. I like to see what is going on the street hence ideas for writing I obtain from watching people, places, buildings and situations.

Male, 34, South Korea When it comes to inspiring and creative place, I think the best one is the shower booth. The reason, as I heard, the warm shower of water on your body promotes the blood circulation along with oxygen to make your brain to work properly. I don’t exactly know how the process works, but I’m sure many people would agree that taking a shower helps for inspiration.

Male, 54, Latvia This time is very hectic and to think creatively takes time, concentration, peace and a balance for the soul. Today that can be considered luxury.

Female, 29, Korea Recently very old designs from the books inspire me. So it’s more or less TaiK’s library. I get an inspiration at the place where keeps the history and story.

Male, 24, Latvia My ideal creative space is - the moment. The moment contains the great possibility to be unique and unrepeatable. All genius ideas are created at some moment, and if they are good they last longer.


Male, 23, Latvia I like to sleep and the best ideas come while I am sleeping.

Female, 25, Latvia A place for an inspiration can be described the best by one word – Unity. This is a picture of Pehel, a small tow in the Mid-Russia, where 30% of people are artists that work as icon painters. They all are employed by painting and woodcarving. Probably these unconsciously clever places are all around the world.

Male, 21, France I am a hundred percent sure what is the most inspiring place ever for me! It is The “Palais de Tokyo” (Tokyo Palace) in Paris. I am inspired by the contrast between the majestic outside and the contemporary solution of the inner spaces.

Female, 27, Latvia During the working process it is important to remember that is not possible to avoid difficulties. Success, what comes after the hard work, gives more satisfaction. Stairs emphasize the moving up without any breaks. And do not give up.

Female, 22, Latvia I get inspired easily. It is enough with a beautiful picture, song or a story about a great person. I like light, it makes easy to study or work. One thing I know for sure: cloudy and dark days are the worst for finding an inspiration or motivation.

Female, 22, Latvia For creative work I need peace and security. That’s why in the picture there is my countryside as there are no any stressful events. Besides I need my table and clean room since that is completely private and secure place.


Observations To understand successes and failures from actual solutions for nomadic working I did several observation sessions in Helsinki city. One of main spots where nomadic workers are gathering is Kamppi shopping centre, due to its central location and accessibility. The other was Helsinki Vantaa Airport as the spot of the migration. My first observation session was done on the 14th of December 2009 in the cafés Johto and Waynes. The conclusions were: space should be away from active shopping or people flow; furniture creates the division of the space; places people choose for working are light in terms of lightning and atmosphere; and the place should be simply-designed. The second observation session was done in Helsinki Vantaa Airport, Terminal 1 on the 17th of December 2009. The conclusions were: The recent solutions, the space organization does not provide proper conditions and spaces and services for the laptop users; the existing furniture is extremely uncomfortable even for short time activities such as checking e-mail. The third observation session was done on the 5th of February 2010 in the café Johto in Kamppi again. The aim of this observation was to find out how do groups of people act in these conditions, what kind of groups are forming, and how do they locate themselves in the space. The conclusions were: if there are one or two persons working, it is most comfortable to use normal height tables (70 cm); but if there is a group of four to five people, transparency and the ability to view others laptop screens and papers allows better communication – this is possible if lower (55-60 cm) tables are used. These observations give insight into the practical aspects of the nomadic working.

21. Pair of workers at café Johto in Kamppi shopping centre, Helsinki. 2009

22. Travelling laptop users in Vantaa Airport, Helsinki. 2009

23. Group of workers at café Johto in Kamppi shopping centre, Helsinki. 2010


24. Travelling laptop user in Vantaa Airport, Helsinki. 2009

25. Travelling laptop user in Vantaa Airport, Helsinki. 2009

26. Trying to find more comfortable position, Vantaa Airport, Helsinki. 2009

From trends to design drivers Background studies, observations and the questionnaire provided appropriate and useful information on the context of the contemporary work environments. The definition of the scope was still complex. I considered it important to have insight into future, and I was looking for upcoming trends that might impact work environments. PricewaterhouseCoopers set out to identify the principle challenges and trends influencing city leaders to formulate sustainable strategies for the future (PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 19/01/2006).


In the following chart I related Mega Trends dominating in future cities with nomadic workers and working. Mega Trends dominate in future cities


Impacts on nomadic workers and working

Impacts on human life and well being

Possible improvements - design drivers

Globalisation / glocalisation

Global economy is beco- Increasing international People have to adjust ming truly integrated and networking - travelling, to the rapid changes there is simultaneous commuting, teleworking global and local focus known as glocalisation  

Familiar environments in different locations recognisable, and similarly designed


An increasingly important social trend which impacts the dialogue between the city and its demanding citizensconsumers

Increases need for Open - minded society individualising public that meets an impunity environment, communication possibilities amongst people and surroundings  

Devices that provide opportunity to communicate with surroundings


Many areas of life are merging together in new ways: work and leisure, culture and values, public and private sectors

Working when ever and where ever in different ways Merging colleagues, friends and family

Lack of privacy, lack of leisure, lack of physical activities

Publicly-private spaces Healthier environments than office for creative and idea generative working Flexibility of the workplace


Increasing speed in all the areas of life, often driven by information and communications technology

Humans are always prepared and equipped to work

Living in a constant stress

To provide work possibilities at relaxing and calming environments - open air, near the water or greenery


Technology has implications for the delivery of all existing services and many more in the future

Office as a permanent location loose meaning, working is possible where is the needed technological support People more and more depend on services provided by technologies and digital networks

Possibility to organise life from wherever, more free choices for time and life management Need to follow and know the usage of the hitech inventions Dependence on technologies destructs private life and causes health problems

Need to control time spent at devices


The hardware of technology must go together with the software of emotions, nostalgia, architecture and design

Environment and objects become active players rather than passive by standers

Need for the active participation to navigate and orientate in the city

Mapping, possibilities to interact with surroundings


The ageing population will have a major impact across the globe

Retired persons are Increases the meaning for Environment and condicontinues work as part health care and safe tions that are acceptable time workers and experts conditions for all the generations Design for all


‘Metropolitanisation’ large cities have a growing influence on the economic health and prosperity of wider regions and in some cases nations

Cities are main areas People are becoming where the workforce is remote from the nature concentrated, emerging need for providing spaces for working

Bringing nature in cities, design for accessibility, usability and experience of green areas and waterfronts


Increased migration presents major challenges around social cohesion, integration and employment

Decreases meaning of Threaten local culture citizenship and nationality, and values increasing role of professional competence and ability to adapt

Focus on the on local cultures, values and ethics


Definition of the design assessment Master Thesis is an individual work, but there are several parties involved therefore it was possible to capture opinions of different experts. First, the opinion of the company I was collaborating. Maija Itkonen, CEO of the Powerkiss, defined her needs as a flag ship product that shows her company’s knowledge about users and usability. She suggested me to create a story as the base for the design, to think about different user scenarios for the public spaces such as the airport, lobby of a corporate building, or the cafeteria. Secondly, my thesis tutor Esa Vesmanen suggested investigating context. What does the term working actually mean? What is the role of time today? How do different materials and spaces impact humans and what senses do they evoke? He also suggested I focus on my own beliefs, to design with the attitude that I am writing a novel showing my love of the World and the design profession. Thirdly, lecturer Martin Relander commented that I should look for social aspects of the nomadic working and the actual impact on the human life. Design is not only giving shape of the technology, it is about the guiding society toward more responsible choices. I defined main task to include related social aspects, as well as my personal concerns. This is the century of the information technology. It demands an ability to adapt to rapid changes and challenges of forthcoming technologies. However, successful working does not depend only on technology. Even if technologies facilitate information management and flows, nothing can substitute for important elements such as an understanding pair of eyes or the handshake. The definition of the design assessment: To supporting both, the technology and human networking, there is a need for a new hybrid space. Intelligent Nomadic Workplace is a furniture unit for creative collaboration in public space. The variation possibilities of elements of the furniture create a platform for sharing knowledge and experience. When the assessment was set, it was necessary to create guidelines towards

27. Identification the social aspects

28. Identification the business aspects


finding practical solutions. To define the scope of properties, I used the “Analysis in Product Development� by Pentti Routio (UIAH, 3/08/2007). Scope of properties: Properties Usability Functions Effect Maintenance


Support group-working Variable in space Universal design Simple usage Easy to maintain

Safety and Durability

Safe for users Durable and stable Resists active usage No special need to maintain furniture parts


Lightness Truth of materials Language of shapes supports functions No disturbing details

Symbolic meaning

People + interaction + technology + work + rest = creative collaboration

Ecology and use of resources

Locally produced and sustainable materials

Cost and Price

Equal to the similar design-class products

Logistics and Marketing

Dismountable for the transportation and packaging efficiency

Functions of the Nomadic Workplace There were several practical issues that had to be covered by the functional solution:

29. First sketch - surfaces, that organize space

Space in space Important from my very first sketches was to create an aside space within the public space: a field of horizontal surfaces that separate the space from its surroundings. Privacy Also from the beginning, privacy was considered. Usually the solution is vertical walls or space-dividers, but I thought to keep the transparency was important. Interactions It is important to provide the possibility for different kinds of interactions. To guarantee both: privacy and security, communication and collaboration.

30. Second sketch - privacy in public space

Ergonomics My first research in the Helsinki Vantaa airport demonstrated two positions people tend to sit while using laptops. The first was leaning forward to be closer to the laptop for writing or a close look into the screen, and the other is leaning back for remote view and more relaxed activities, such as taking a short break. These two positions became important designing the nomadic working place. Technology Even simple technology often causes confusion amongst users. Therefore it is necessary to guarantee conditions where the technology is easily understood and accepted. I was dealing with the implementation of the Powerkiss wireless charg-

31. Identification of two important sitting positions for work with a laptop


ing technology. Powerkiss unit consists of the wireless charging transmitter (heart), which is attached to the furniture and the wireless charging transmitter (kiss) that is plugged into the device. The heart makes a connection with the kiss and the power transaction starts whenever kiss is plugged into a device and close to the heart. This technology has several requirements. The furniture must include accessible surface that is large and thick enough for attaching technological units. Although it is necessary to connect the furniture piece to the electrical network, it must not become an electricity device. This connection to the electrical network eliminates the mobility of the furniture.

Design takes shape Idea A The ideas of hybrid space and enhancing human interaction & communication led me to the design of a large bench with attached smaller and rotating laptop tables, basically a platform with functions on its surface. The essence of this idea was to have something common that is shared amongst several users and creates conditions for communication – verbal, non verbal or just by sight. Where people share-limited space – in the bus, boat or sauna - they act differently. These spaces provide the equity that is important for open-minded and creative collaboration. Shared space and conditions raises equity among different genders, ages and ranges. To visualize the idea I made sketches using 3-dimensional modeling. I faced the following complications: the size of the designed furniture piece, plus relationship between ergonomics and function. To make the platform movable I did not wanted to make it larger than 1 X 1 meter. I showed scale models to the fellow students who suggested I should consider efficiency of the space. They felt only two could use the space that normally would be enough for the sitting of 4 people because it did not feel private. How could I guarantee the needed privacy, if people, who are using the furniture piece, are strangers? The other difficulty was the backrest that had to be used from two sides, if it were too high; it could become a barrier between the users. For communication a central surface is needed, but my scale models were divided in the middle with the backrest.

32. Relation of sitting positions and surfaces

33. 1:10 scale model of the platform idea

34. 1:1 test of the platform idea



Idea B After the comments I received, I realized I needed to simplify and make the furniture look more normal. I found in the design for workplaces there have been many imaginative solutions that were never accepted because they were remote from the actual behavior of people.I wanted to research more how people act in public space and what are the most common positions and locations in space. I did the second observation in the Kamppi shopping centre’s cafe Johto, that is described before. There I realized the difference between people working alone, in pairs and in larger groups. If people were working alone or pairs, they were choosing high tables. If there were a group of 3 or more persons it was more convenient to use lower tables to achieve the needed transparency. I wanted to reasearch more the locations in space people tend to form, while doing different activities. At that moment,I found the concept of design studio PearsonLloyd under the name “Parcs”, what is also described before. PearsonLloyd has done serious investigation on the research of human behavior for creating spaces for collaborative working in contemporary offices. Alike Personlloyd is also referencing to the human behavior from different cultures in various environments, I considered it important to study the meeting space organization of the local cultures -19th century homes of Latvia and Finland. During that time people mainly were working at homes, doing handicraft and subsistence farming. I considered homes from that time to be a good example, that demonstrating the ability to organize space without anything redundant. These spaces are iconic, as people had to create simple functional environments, using basic means. There are three different spaces I consider to be most important meeting spaces.

35. Dining table, Latvia. 19th century

36. Living room, Latvia. 19th century

Dining table – organization of life The dining table was one of the central spaces in the homes of the 19th century. It was the place where the household met during the day and for the meeting face-to face during working days in the fields, woods, or by the sea. Quite often that was a place for the discussion about what to do next and another issues related to life and work-organization. A relatively large table was the main element for organizing the space. Around the table there were several homemade chairs, seats and stools placed. Along the wall there was a large, built-in bench. Stove – workshop and knowledge sharing The living room was a place where all life in the household happened. The stove that provided heat for the room took quite a lot of space and around that people were doing housework. During the wintertime, a plane table was placed in the room as well as a loom and spinning wheel. In smaller farms, work such as stringing a festoon, shoe making, gear repair also took place 42

37. Sauna, Latvia. 19th century

in the large room. This was the place where, during the long winter nights, all generations gathered and sometimes, even neighbors. They did work, individually or in groups, had talks and discussions, gave advices and taught, cited folk songs, shared adventures. This was a special time for exchanging experiences and passing the knowledge to the next generations.Sauna – philosophy and secrets The Finns used the sauna as a place to cleanse the mind, refresh the spirit. The sauna was, and still is, an important part of daily life, and families bathed together in the home sauna. Because the sauna was often the cleanest structure and had water readily available, Finnish women also gave birth in the sauna. Although the culture of sauna nowadays is more or less related to Finnish culture, it’s important to note that the evolution of sauna has happened around the same time both in Finland and the Baltic countries, which share the same meaning and importance of sauna in daily life (Wikipedia 2010).


Development of the idea B To grasp functional organization of these three spaces, I made scale models and 1:50 and 1:20 that displayed the actual need of the furniture units. Most useful and variable were three angular stools. Taking them as the basis for more flexible space, I designed a group of furniture that could for form open or private locations in space.

38. Units needed for the organization the “dining“ situation

39. Units needed for the organization the “sauna“ situation

40. Units needed for the organization the “stove“ situation

41. Possible variations of stools

42. Possible variations of stools

43. Possible combinations of stools and tables


44 Development of the idea 1:10

45. Arrangment possibilities for collaborative spaces

46. Arrangment possibilities for individual spaces

47. 3-ds modelling variantions in space

48. 3-ds modelling of collaborative space

49. 3-ds modelling of collaborative space

Idea A with functions of the idea B Both of the previously described ideas, idea A: organized by platform, and idea B: organized by triangular stools, were presented to my thesis tutor Esa Vesmanen and CEO of Powerkiss Maija Itkonen. Tutor said that the final concept must have a significant idea behind. The idea of the platform seemed to be a new type of furniture for him. The feedback I received from Maija Itkonen was that it is easier to connect the technology to the larger surface. Flexibility of the space is needed, but it cannot be provided by movable furniture pieces, as the charging requires connection to the electricity network. The place for human interactions in different levels seemed promising to her. After these commentaries I decided to continue the Idea A, a platform for interactions, despite its complexity.



Scale Modelling The easiest way to both, determine furniture dimensions and think of a possible structure, was through scale modeling. In this case, I developed many scale models 1:10. Even if, many of them seem senseless, the thinking process needs versions of versions. The thinking material must identify possibilities and weaknesses. The solution does not come in one day. With help of the scale models, I tried to implement previously described qualities – space in space, privacy, interactions, ergonomics and technology. I was mainly dealing with the relation between ergonomics and functions. Rotating tables provides flexibility and various positions for using the laptop, but for comfortable sitting a seat and space for legs is needed. One of the versions adjust the shape of the surface to the sitting positions; cutting away some pieces of the platform. Another solution allows seats to rotate. None of these seemed promising, because in either furniture piece would loose its wholeness, or become too mechanical. There were also some very practical issues I had to consider – how can I guarantee that the user is not squeezed between the platform, seat and the laptop tables, if the table is connected to the surface? Also the nomadic lifestyle - bags, cups, documents and working tools – requires secure place while doing the work.

50. Scale model 1:10 of functional organization of the platform

51.Rotating tables form one common surface in the middle

52. Version of organization the functions, cutting away the unecessary parts

53. Version with the common surface in the middle

54. Version with backrests



Movable seats Human brain is designed so that the solution does not always come during the work process. It happened so this time, when, waiting for the library doors to open, the functional solution of sitting in different positions came into my mind. If the seats are just placed on the surface, but not permanently attached, there would be unlimited positions that supports working with laptop on the rotating tables. Wholeness of the surface would be kept and the place for extra persons or personal belongings would not be a problem. I made a scale model 1:10 that clearly showed variations of the solution.

55. Scale model 1:10 of platform with movable seats and rotating tables

56. Variation that provides privacy

57. Variation that provides possibility to have a rest

58. Variation that provides collaboration possibilities

Mockup Production The last 1:10 scale model was promising because of the wide range of functional possibilities. To proceed the design further, I decided to move to the full scale. Using the same dimensions as in the scale model, I made a simple mock up 1:1 with rotating tables and seats that guarantee the optimal comfort. 59. Mockup of the platform with attached rotating tables and movable seats


Tests There were several main issues I had to ensure with the mock up – overall usability, functions, dimensions and ergonomics. I asked fellow students and teachers to test the mock up and they were so kind to give commentaries. Mock up tests indicated following usage possibilities and needed improvements.

60. Mockup with one user

61. Mockup usage of two persons

62. Mockup usage of two tall persons

63. Mockup usage with an extra chair

64. Mockup usage of two persons lying

65. Mockup usage of three persons

66. Mockup usage of four persons



67. Identification of possible charging area

68. Identification of possible charging area

69.Discussion about the size of the laptop table

70. Need to increase the width of the platform

71. Need to increase the distance between attached tables

72. Need to increase the height of the platform and tables

73. Need to improve the seat ergonomics

74. Backrest/armrest should be used from both sides

75. Needed an oblique angle for the backrest/armrest


Mockup development After the commentaries, I continued the mock up with improvements. The most demanding was how to make the seats comfortable. First, I tried to make a version with a slightly oblique angle in the backrest, but, as the height of the backrest could not be higher than 30 cm (due to the rotation of tables, transparency, and the necessity to be able move), but the slightly increased angle did not work. The second mock up was with a smaller angle, and thicker foam on the top of the surface. All together, I made five mock up versions of the seat, experimenting with different angles, densities of foam and dimensions.

76. Testing the possible angles for the backrest

77. Identification of the comfortable height of the backrest/armrest

78. Adding the angle to the backrest/armrest

79. Changes in the angle of the backrest/ armrest

80. Changes in the angle and foam thickness of the backrest/armrest

81. Final section of the backrest/armrest mockup


Another task to solve simultaneously were general dimensions and proportions. The seat should have a certain volume, but not be oversized in order to be easy movable. The width was increased from 46 to 50 cm. Due to the larger surface of the backrest/armrest and to guarantee the needed comfort for taller persons, the depth was decreased to 43 cm from 46. That also created a more balanced appearance.

82. First mockup of the seat part

83. Second mockup of the seat part

84. Third mockup of sthe eat part

85. Changes of the third mockup of seat part

86. Fourth mockup of the seat part

87. Tests of the last versions of the seat part mockup


Design for public environment requires safety and durability. This impacts not only the choice of the materials, but also the language of forms. Rotation of the tables determined usage of the cylindrical metal tubes for the vertical structures. To avoid the risk of collision, the corners of the rotating tables had to be round, rounding also the corners of the platform and seats. I tested two different radiuses of the rounding – 40 mm and 30 mm. The choice was 40 mm, as it seemed more fluent and supports the general idea of this design - surfaces, rather than objects.

88. Test of corner roundnings for seat and tables

89. Test of the corner roundning of platform

90. Test of the accessibility of charging area

91. Test of the metal structure dimensions

92. Test of the seat upholstery corner

93. Location of seems for upholstery


Materials and colours One furniture piece had to provide different functions and usability, so it was essential to choose appropriate materials. Important aspects for the material choice were sustainability, durability, tangible qualities and rational production possibilities. Besides the rational reasons, I was considered, what makes humans choose certain types of the materials. Why do we want to touch wooden surfaces? Does the tactility have an important meaning? One very important material, for example, that close to the human body is the denim for jeans. In several discussions with students around me, I was asking, what makes this material so attractive? There were several reasons as: warm and breathable, universal, ageing nicely, and gets patina. In the nomadic workplace design, active-use surfaces dominate, therefore it was important to find a material that could create durable surfaces and at the same time create a pleasurable contact with the human body. A massive wood surface could be a solution, but usage of the board material seemed more rational. As the workstation had to be able to carry weight of one to the four persons, total weight approximately 320 kg, it was important to use material that does not change its qualities in the long term. Birch plywood was chosen due to it’s proper physical qualities, as well as availability in Finland. Leading plywood producers in Finland are certificated by ISO 9000 and ISO 14001certificates (Borealforest 2010). The surfaces of plywood are easy to damage, therefore appeared the need for surface covering. Furniture linoleum produced by Forbo is a high-quality material with a proven pedigree. The company states that their environmentally compatible products and state-of-the-art processes ensure that each production stage minimizes the environmental impact. The producer engages in responsible product sourcing that combines the customers’ preference for quality with care for the environment, carefully selecting suppliers who reflect the environmental and social concerns. Forbo manufacturing operations are ISO 14001 certified. Raw materials and energy are used efficiently, waste is recycled wherever possible, and emissions are kept to an absolute minimum


94. Birch plywood

95. Forbo furniture linoleum “Desktop“

in the production facility in Assendelft, the Netherlands. Life-cycle analysis shows that Forbo linoleum products are the ecologically preferred surface covering. Linoleum is produced from renewable materials: linseed oil, rosins, wood flour, jute and ecologically responsible pigments (Forbo 2010). For the upholstery parts it was important to choose breathable and tactile material. Paper yarn fabric, produced by Woodnotes, is the fabric I have chosen for the upholstery. The yarn, used by Woodnotes, has been spun from durable heavyweight paper that can be recycled or burned to produce energy. Woodnotes products are biodegradable. Paper is both hygienic and safe. Due to the density of the fibres, paper yarn collects neither dust nor dirt – an important property, especially for those who suffer from allergies. (Woodnotes 2010) In the first ideas, I was thinking about wooden leg structure for the platform, but the joint that provides rotation and is in the tempting height to sit on it, led to the decision of the usage of metal structure. For the construction parts of the workplace unit, the Ruukki steel tubes are used. This company is certificated with several environmental and sustainability certificates (Ruuki, 22/02/2010). As the furniture piece is meant for sitting long periods, I had to consider comfortable sitting conditions. Being aware of the upholstery foam’s environmental impacts in the first design ideas I tried to develop solutions without usage of it. Discussing the early-stage sketches with Martin Relander, the lecturer of Furniture Design department at Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu, I received the comment, that the comfortable sitting is essential to guarantee the usability of the workstation. This means, that there should be upholstery or a solution that provides equal comfort. Seeking a more ecological material for the upholstery, I contacted the representatives of the Konstfack’s Material Library during the Stockholm Furniture Fair 2010. The suggested solution was the Breathair material that is produced by Ohmi Kasei Co. Ltd in Japan. Brethair is made of polyester elastomers that has 3d random loop structure. Polyurethane is a difficult material to be recycled and is buried as waste after use in most cases, but Breathair is made out of polyester elastomers, and easily recycled. This material is also breathable and washable, able to control multiplication of bacteria’s, and lighter than polyurethane (hardness can be kept 30% better than polyurethane, recovery after compression also has better rates polyurethane) (Ohmikasei, 2010). Despite all the advantageous qualities of this material, the delivery from the producer in Japan negates the good environmental performance. So, for the prototype I decided to use ordinary upholstery foam, using it as minimal as possible in comparison to the fully upholstered furniture (for example, sofas). Colours for the prototype were chosen according to research of the people’s

96. Woodnotes upholstery fabric “Sand“

97. Metal tubes for constructive parts

98. Breathair


inspiring places. Respondents replied, that light and lightness of the work environment are important qualities. To emphasize the active surfaces – laptop tables and charging area – they are covered with brighter material. People have different perception of colours, but the traditional understanding of the blue is as a constant of lives. It is also calming and cooling and supports the idea of short break, during the work with laptop. Red is chosen to turn attention to the charging area. Red symbolizes energy. Red draws attention and a keen use of red as an accent can immediately focus attention on a particular element. Grey as a background colour is chosen for its practical qualities and resistance to the dirt, which is an important aspect for the design for public space. Gray is timeless, practical, and solid; the balance that is essential for humans. 99. Final colours

100. 3-ds modelling with final coulours and dimensions

101. 3-ds modelling with final coulours and dimensions



Prototype production Metal structure To guarantee the stability of the platform I designed a carrier frame under the entire surface, what determined the next steps in the functional solution. The simplest solution was to make the frame from square tubes. The laptop table legs and also the legs of the platform are attached to the frame with u profiles. All the attached parts are fixed with screws, therefore the structure is easy dismountable. This solution provides stability and can be rationally produced. This solution has been discussed with the TaiK’s metal workshop master Matti Kauppinen and thesis tutor Esa Vesmanen. To provide rotation, two furniture turntables, produced by the furniture fitting company Hafele, are attached to the square pieces that are welded to the table legs.

102. 3-ds modelling of joints

103. 1:1drawing of a joint

104. Welding


105. Drilling

106. Finished metal parts before the mounting

Upholstery The construction of the upholstery parts slightly depended on functions. Mock up ascertained that shapes look clearer if the backrest part is divided from the seat with a gap. The solution that seemed complex for this case was to connect both parts with two metal tubes, where the larger diameter tube is inside the seat and smaller diameter tube in backrest part. Searching for more simple solution I had a consultation with upholstery master Antero Halonen from Halover Oy that ascertained that there is no more rational solution than the one was thinking before. For the prototype two types of metal tubes were used. Tube of 40mm diameter is welded to the 100 X100 mm square steel piece that was attached to the seat part, but the 35 mm diameter tube was fixed into the structure of the backrest. Both parts are connected with screws. The inner parts of the upholstery are made from the 15 mm thick spruce plywood at TaiK’s wood workshop. Finnish paper yarn design company Woodnotes agreed to sponsor the upholstery fabric, therefore the decision to make the upholstery at their workshop seemed to be rational, as the master knows better the specifics of the material.

108. Inner joints of upholstery

109. Joint connection to the board

110. Production process

111. Joint of wooden and metal parts

112. Finished seat


Surfaces The material chosen for the production of surfaces was 21 mm birch plywood and the Forbo furniture linoleum from the Desktop collection. The application of the furniture linoleum to the plywood required pressure, especially to for producing large surfaces as the platform. For these purposes TaiK’s vacuum pump technology was used. For the applying the material to the laptop table surfaces, a rubber bag was suitable, but for pressing the main surface, a special bag was created. To guarantee the precision, surfaces were milled by CNC machine. TaiK’s wood workshop’s personnel have been extremely helpful during the production process of the surfaces.

113. Linoleum before the application

114. Cutting the linoleum

115. Covering the plywood with glue

116. Compressing in a vacuum

117. Large surface in the CNC machine for milling the edges

118. Milling the edges

119. Milling the chamfer for the charging area



Charging area The area where the Powerkiss technology was implemented is in the middle of the platform due to safety reasons. Red colour linoleum was inserted in the groove, made by CNC machine, of the grey linoleum. To indicate the usage of charging area, there was needed easily readable information. To avoid the use of more materials, there was a need to print directly on the linoleum. Digital printing laboratories either rejected or did not gave any warranties. Finally, the screen-printing happened in TaiK’s serigrafia’s workshop. For attaching the technological units, the round grooves from the other side of the surface, were made beforehand by the CNC machine. Units were attached from bottom with screws, following Powerkiss installation guidelines. 120. Print on the transparent for screenprinting

121. Preparation for the lightning

122. Washing the lightened part

123. Printing on the linoleum

124. Milling edges of the patch

125. Gluing the patch

126. Attaching the wireless charging technology from the bottom of the surface




Intelligent Nomadic Workplace








Drawings of the workstation Top view 1:20






Charging area 500 Rotation 360 O


Birch plywood 21mm

440 360

Front view 1:20


900 1800

630 695

Side view 1:20

1000 1400





Metal structure 1:20



798 1094


Furniture turntable 120

Steel tube D 35 mm Steel U profile 50X50 mm



Steel tube 45X45 mm

120 76



Seat 1:10 500 490

200 180

Steel tube connection







Upholstery foam 50kg/m3






Results A four month long research and background study and the following design process has resulted in a working prototype – the intelligent nomadic workplace. Collaboration with the Finnish wireless-charging company Powerkiss has been an opportunity to focus on the design for certain group of users – nomadic workers. Besides gaining understanding of the meaning of the technology, I have investigated the context of the contemporary work environment and possible drivers for the future development. As my personal design perspective is more orientated towards psychosocial health, the outcome is a workstation that includes both human and technological interactions.


Proposing for further solutions The workstation for public places is strongly related to the nomadic lifestyle and mobility. The main tools for the work process are mobile phones and laptops. The current solution for supporting the actual needs of working everywhere is an opportunity to charge mobile phones. Charging of laptops is another essential issue, but this technological solution of the Powerkiss is still under the development, as portable computers have different charging plugs. It is complicated to find a universal solution, but later it will be possible to implement the laptop charging to this design, strongly considering the safety aspects. The other issue that is not covered in this thesis project is the service or the operating possibilities of the designed workstation. To access the charging, it is not enough with the surface, where one part of the technology, called heart is embedded. Also necessary is a receiver, that plugged into the device.This receiver is not connected to the surface. It is necessary to make these receivers accessible to users. That can be organized either with a service in the public space, or, if the furniture is located in the corporate or organizational environment, with an access point.


Evaluating the project outcome This thesis project has resulted with a furniture design that contains an original idea – the hybrid space. To proceed the project, it was necessary to act according to a tight schedule and every-day decision making. Studies at the TaiK’s furniture department’s masters program have given me practical knowledge that is essential for design today. Methods of sustainable design, rational material choice and production methods, good ergonomics, are the main issues I have studied during these two years. It has been essential to have conversations with the professionals of the field, tutor and the staff at TaiK’s furniture department, as well business - Powerkiss. I have also received a practical support from the material providers, who were important for producing the prototype without limitations in these very practical, but essential issues. The outcome is a furniture prototype that changes the work environment from static and complex, to active and simple. The satisfaction for me is not so much about the outcome, the furniture, but for the reason to think, to raise the questions and find the answers, to have a deep insight in the human living and to communicate, what this project involved. Design for me is not only a profession, it is a mean to understand and create the world.


Credits Professor: Simo Heikkil채 Tutor: Esa Vesmanen Collaboration: Powerkiss Oy Sponsoring: Woodnotes Oy, Forbo Floorings, Hafele Welding: Matti Kauppinen Powdercoating: Lainsalo Oy Upholstery: Woodnotes Photos: Maija Astikainen and Sofia Okkonen


Acknowledgements First of all I would like to thank professor Simo Heikkilä and lecturer Martin Relander for the straightforward teaching during my master studies. My deepest thanks to the thesis tutor Esa Vesmanen for the encouragement to be creative, work hard and share the personal design perspective. Thanks to the CEO of Powerkiss Maija Itkonen for the energetic conversations. Thanks for the patient help and assistance to Matti Kauppinen, Manne Kuva, Arto Sillanpää, Teemu Mäntylä and Markus Koistinen. Special thanks for the precise positioning to Hannu Paajanen. Thanks to Jukka Lehtinen for the great help with the screen-printing. Thanks to Minna Ahokas from Woodnotes for the kind help with the upholstery parts. Thanks to Julie Scheu and Maria Riekkinen for being extremely supportive. Thanks to Satoshi Yoshida for the very useful commentaries and suggestions. Thanks to Jooyeon Lee, Woojin Chung, Mayuka Ota and Kumiko Uchida for the helpful presence. Thanks to Kaisa Takala and Hanna-Liisa Pykala, Milla Vahtera and Elina Järvinen for the nice everyday moments during my studies at TaiK. Thanks to Anastasija Mass for the help from far. Thanks to my family and friends for their prayers.



References Literature William McDonough, Michael Braungart, Cradle to cradle: Remaking the way we make things, 2002, North Point Press, New York Paola Antonelli, Tim Brown, John Thackara, Laura Oslapas, Christopher Budd, Workspheres: Design and Contemporary Work Styles, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001 Elisabeth Pelegrin-Genel, The Office, 1996, Flammarion Aidan Walker, Business as usual? FX Business of Design, November 2009 Bill Mark, Evywhere Interactions, Innovation, Spring 2009 Internet sources Bene, 29/09/2009. The digital office of the 21st century [online] Available at: office-furniture/trends-entwicklung-des-bueros_06.html?OpenDocument&mod=magazine&cat=25 [accessed February 5, 2010] Washington Monthly, 01/05/2002.The Rise of the Creative Class [online] Available at: http://www. [accessed April 28, 2010] One Workplace, 06/2000. Alternative Officing Strategies [online] [accessed April 28, 2010] Mental Floss, 10/08/2009. 5 Things You Don’t Know About IKEA [online] Available at: http://blogs. [accessed February 27, 2010] Divorce Salon, 23/11/2009. Sweden: Does the IKEA and H&M culture feed the high divorce rate in Sweden? [online] Available at: [accessed February 27, 2010] Philips 2006. Ambient Intelligence [online] Available at: [accessed March 6, 2010.] Intelligent Forms, 2010. Solo Lounge Table [online]. Available at: solo-lounge-table/ [accessed March 6, 2010] Crave, 23/03/ 2007. The furniture media-mashup [online] Available at: eyword=Wireless+speakers [accessed March 6, 2010] PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 19/01/2006. Mega trends dominate future development of cities [online]. Available at: [accessed January 10, 2010] UIAH, 3/08/2007. Analysis in Product Development [online] Available at:


projekti/metodi/13a.htm [accessed February 2, 2010] Wikipedia 2010, Sauna [online] Available at: [accessed February 22, 2010] Borealforest 2010, Finland- Forests and Forestry [online] Available at: world_finland.htm+plywood+sustainability+Finland [accessed April 10, 2010] Forbo 2010, Environment [online] Available at: aspx?menuId=593 Finland [accessed April 10, 2010] Woodnotes 2010. Ecological Design [online] Available at: [accessed April 10, 2010] Ruuki, 22/02/2010. Corporate responsibility at Ruuki [online] Available at: OpenDocument&lang=1 [accessed April 10, 2010] Ohmikasei, 2010. All about the Breathair [online] Available at: [accessed April 10, 2010]

Image credits

1. Foot warmer Footchat. 2006 Photo by Reinis Hofmanis 2. Altar Saint Tables. 2008 Photo by Reinis Hofmanis 3. Modular sofa Neighbors. 2009 Photo by Chikako Harada 4. Charles and Ray Eames (accessed 30.04.2010) 5.IKEA (accessed 30.04.2010) 6. Environmental, Social and Economic triangle ExecutiveSummary/bubbles.jpg (accessed 10.05.2010) A. Larkin Administration Building, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright.1903–1905 (accessed 10.05.2010) B. Bauhaus workshops, Dessau Bauhaus director’s office.1925-1926 kcai/ConstrBau/Images/Final/DessauOffice.jpg (accessed 10.05.2010) C. Johnson-Wax Administration Building, Racine, Frank Lloyd Wright,1937–1939 (accessed 16.02.2010) D. Union Carbide Building, New York, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.1960

87 323/10323/4Skidmore,_Owings_&_Merrill,_Architects.jpg (accessed 16.02.2010) E. Action Office 2, Herman Miller Design.1968-76 (accessed 16.02.2010) F. Centraal Beheer, Apeldoorn, Herman Hertzberger.1970–1973 media/artscouncil/history/structuralist/index.html (accessed 10.05.2010) G. Ethospace, Herman Miller Design.1990 (accessed 10.05.2010) H. Chiat/Day offices, New York,Geatano Pesce.1994-1995 (accessed 16.02.2010) I. Joyn for Vitra, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. 2002 joyn-conferencing/overview/ (accessed 10.05.2010) 7. Office of the software application Skype, Tallin. 2006 imgres?imgurl= (accessed 10.05.2010) 8. Advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, New York. 2008 (accessed 10.05.2010) 9.-11. Photos by Elina Busmane 12. Office furniture “Parcs“, designed by PearsonLloyd, 2009 (accessed 10.05.2010) 13. Helsinki Vantaa Airport, 2009, photo by Elina Busmane 14. E. Koronyo, Ground Zero: Privacy in Public Space, 2000 exhibitions/2001/workspheres/ (accessed 10.05.2010) 15. S. A. Varanka Hudson, Field Office, 1999 workspheres/ (accessed 10.05.2010) 16. S. A. Varanka Hudson, Field Office, 1999 workspheres/ (accessed 10.05.2010) 17. Solo Lounge Table, Intelligentforms. 2008 (accessed 10.05.2010) 18. Solo Lounge Table, Intelligentforms. 2008 (accessed 10.05.2010) 19. Music Sofa, G.Wuqiongkun, 2007 (accessed 06.03.2010) 20. Personal Skies, N. Fukasawa. 2000 10.05.2010) 21. -26. Observations. Photos by Elina Busmane and Mayuka Ota 27.-32. Images by Elina Busmane 33.-34. Photos by Elina Busmane


35. Dining table, Latvia, 19th century Photo by Elina Busmane 36. Living room, Latvia, 19th century (accessed 10.05.2010) 37. Sauna, Latvia, 19th century 4-04 (accessed 10.05.2010) 38.-46. Scale models. Photos by Elina Busmane 47.-49. 3-ds. Images by Elina Busmane 50.-54. 1:10 scale models. Photos by Elina Busmane 55.-59. 1:10 scale models and mockup.Photos by Elina Busmane 60.-66. Mockup tests. Photos by Elina Busmane and Satoshi Yoshida. 67.-75. Mockup improvements. Photos by Elina Busmane 76.-81. Mockup development.Photos by Elina Busmane and Maria Riekkinen 82.-87. Mockup development. Photos by Elina Busmane 88.-93. Detail development. Photos by Elina Busmane 94.-98. Materials. Photos by Elina Busmane 100.-101. Colours. Images by Elina Busmane 102.-112.Production of structure and upholstery. Photos by Elina Busmane 113.-119. Production of surfaces. Photos by Elina Busmane 120.-126. Production of charging area. Photos by Elina Busmane Photos in pages: 5, 68-73 by Maija Astikainen and Sofia Okkonen Photos in pages: 48, 51, 63, 65 by Elina Busmane Images in pages: 41, 46, 59 by Elina Busmane Pictures in pages 30-33 by respondents of the survey “Your most inspiring place�.



Elina Busmane



Master Thesis

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