Anna Sitnikova soothes workers by taking office plants to the next level

Flipping the office greenhouse mentality, Anna Sitnikova de-stresses workers by bringing the office to the park. After spotting her sensitive spatial designs at the Royal Academy of Art’s graduation show in The Hague, Frame asked Anna Sitnikova to contribute to the Design to De-Stress Challenge. In each issue, five emerging designers are challenged to present a conceptual solution in response to a prominent issue. Frame 119 examines the undesired burgeoning stress-levels seen in the workforce of today.

Most people go to parks to relax, that doesn’t seem to work for you . . .
ANNA SITNIKOVA: Today’s parks are unnatural, meaningless and disconnected, because they are designed in opposition to the rest of the city. Even though they represent nature in an urban environment, they lack the natural components of change, heterogeneity and idiosyncrasy – qualities that are, funnily enough, embedded in the city. Somehow cities have become more natural than parks.

What can be done to improve the situation?

In order to de-stress staff, many modern offices are like greenhouses. But what if a city’s breathing spaces – its parks – flourished with offices? Expanding office life to fill these spaces would restore a heterogeneous, idiosyncratic environment in the midst of a natural setting, while triggering playfulness and a satisfying sense of drifting for both strollers and office workers.

Please elaborate.
Picture offices spread out over the grass beneath a shared ceiling-cum-roof that provides light and shelter for office staff and park visitors. Ceiling tiles can be removed to let more daylight enter the offices. The subsequent gaps become spaces for the placement of windows that reveal a framed top view of office life. Finally, a staircase with public access to the roof terrace invites people to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire park.

Do you envision other amenities?
A shared area for park visitors and office workers – located between the offices – is equipped with an office-sized water cooler, a large machine that dispenses a range of hot drinks and a barbecue available for public use. Office chairs can be rolled outside, and hammocks hang from the roof beams.

Taking today’s plant-infused offices one step further, Anna Sitnikova proposes Office Sprawl, a concept that fuses workplaces and city parks. 

It sounds lovely, but how does it de-stress people?
By surrounding office workers with soothing views of nature that they can access simply by stepping outside the workplace. They can also take advantage of various outdoor activities instead of putting their feet up during break time.

And visitors to the park?
They experience my concept, which I call Office Sprawl, as a sculptural installation or as a similar intervention into public space. The monotonous, repetitive organization of offices is a stark contrast to the chaos of the park. Office Sprawl offers visitors more than a chance to experience the pleasure of watching other people at work, however. Its true purpose is to create a powerful image that delivers a cathartic feeling.

More from this issue

Frame 119

This issue of Frame explores how offices that adapt to their digitally empowered personnel are sparking a revolution. Studio RHE asks buildings for feedback, and Space Encounters designs an adaptive office for Sony Music.

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