After the new regulations imposed by the corona virus emergency, the market has experienced a real explosion in the demand for partitions, barriers, screens and any other device for “social distancing”, a wrong definition because, never as in this moment, although forced to physical distancing we need for social interaction.
After the immediate spread of ugly plexiglass screens, quality and good design proposals were also launched for a non-invasive separation, defining oases to feel protected and serene.
In this review we have selected some of the most recent, valid and creative solutions for physical distancing.
We now live with the “one meter at least” in mind that considerably reduces the risk of infection by covid-19. In short, we must change our behaviors taking into account the ideal sphere surrounding and safeguarding ourselves.
And the “Personal Bubble” comes to mind, an intuition by Edward T. Hall, who – in the 1960s – denied that people’s boundary coincided with his skin, but concerned the personal variable micro-space surrounding oneself.
Now the Personal Bubble has materialized in a real physical area.
So, more than barriers, we need an overall rethinking of environments – macro and micro spaces – that takes into account the ways of working consolidated in recent years, based on collaboration and interaction.
In the 1980s, when the crystal barrier was still a must in all front offices and banks, the elimination of these screens was not only a formal gesture, but the manifestation of a new model of behavior, defining a new relationship between the customer and the bank / institution.
Also in those years the famous “cubicle” typical of large American open plan offices was questioned.
Today we cannot choose the simplest solution, erecting barriers again and returning to the cubicles.
The changes in our habits, use of spaces and ways of interacting covid-19 imposes represent an important challenge, but also an opportunity for designers and producers. The concept of physical distancing can be interpreted from new perspectives.
We have already highlighted in Gabriele Masi’s article “Assembling barriers: creative answers for new pathsways” the need for a creative approach to avoid static attributes and ensure the barrier is not just a physical impediment.
The webinar “New keywords for the workplace after covid-19” organized by WOW! with CBRE also demonstrate that, rather than reassuring people the presence of barriers and screens generate anxiety because they are the signal of the risk surrounding ourselves.
But we need to come back office with serenity, knowing that the company will take care of us, that interactions with colleagues are still possible, collaboration and sharing of ideas are still decisive factors for ‘innovation.
The workplace focused on wellbeing must create a”comfort zone” without perceiving any risks for better performances.
I mean elements that separate without invading our environments and without reminding us of the surrounding threat.
The urgent need for quickly solutions does not justify many ugly plexiglass barriers. So numerous that plexiglass has become almost impossible to find.
However, the lockdown period was enough for the most dynamic designers and companies to design and produce quality design solutions with an aesthetic value, combining multiple performances and becoming harmoniously part of the offices.
Free standing elements, highlighting their temporary and ephemeral character. Or friendly objects positioned on the desk top with a decorative function, thanks to the attention to detail. They can be integrated into the modular furniture systems so that they are not invasive and alternating blind and glass panels to increase lightness and avoid the “cubicle” effect.
The barrier can also be virtual, not a screen, but a physical element that imposes separation without being perceived as a limitation.
The choice of materials, better eco-sustainable, must privilege the easy cleaning and sanitization.
Some alternative proposals also provide for the possibility of transforming barriers into green walls, or using greenery as partitions.
The presence of nature, is calming and has a positive effect on good mood. Plants give off a bioenergetic charge that contributes to restoring psychophysical balance.
The solutions here selected promote ethical and aesthetic quality: pleasant, restoring products with a low environmental impact.
Objects, beautiful to look at. Because “beauty will save the world” and also the post pandemic workplace!
Text by Renata Sias
HW Style, Moss and Green partitions.
Nature is better than a wall! Starting from this certainty, the HW Style’s “Green Passion” has suggested different solutions and can design any customized plant partition.
The most recent project does not require any maintenance and can also be positioned without natural light: it is the Moss Partition entirely covered on both sides with stabilized lichen; in particular, the three-dimensional moss makes the surface more lively, dynamic and customizable.
Estel, Caring System (design Alberto Stella with R&D Estel).
A panel system, easily sanitized in all its parts, which offers physical protection from the transmission of pathogens in the air.
A universal solution for any workstation, designed to maintain the visual opening of the space and transparency in natural light, a fundamental element for the wellbeing. (See the article dedicated to the Caring System).
Caimi Brevetti, Caimi Safe Design (design by Michele De Lucchi, Sezgin Aksu and Caimi Lab).
A new design oriented collection including several sustainable, smart and versatile solutions of modular, free standing screens.
The use of cutting-edge technologies guarantees wellbeing and maximum hygiene. The panels are in polycarbonate or in Trevira sound-absorbing and antimicrobial Bioactive fabric. (See the article dedicated to Caimi Safe Design).
Emme Italy, Bollard and Paretina.
Separators featured by essential design: painted steel bollards and dividing screens (also on wheels) with metal structure.
The panels are available in melamine chipboard, metal sheet, or plastic material.
Codal, Presenza (design Fabrizio Bianchetti).
Figures inspired by people sit, ideally, with us: a simple idea, an artistic gesture. The shapes are made of shockproof and non-yellowing plexiglass; thanks to simple mechanical elements, they can be installed on existing benches and removed as needed.
Codal, Palinsesto (design Fabrizio Bianchetti).
A desk panel with a sober design that integrates in a single object a protective screen, a pencil and flower holder. A multifunctional and versatile solution that allows you to distance and guarantee individual protection and once the emergency will finish, it will continue its function as a storage compartment on the desk.
Mascagni, Sound System
Mascagni has further expanded its Sound panel system allowing to divide the space by solving the problem of acoustic reverberation. The crystal and methacrylate versions are flanked by the best performing soundproofed laminate and microperforated wood screens, patented in Europe.
The plastic material used to coat the surface of the sound-absorbing mat allows cleaning with any daily sanitizing detergent. It is also available in a customizable version. Quick and easy to install and reconfigure, it avoids irreversible interventions.
An interesting design thinking path that starts from the study of an existing system, looking for something that the health emergency has made mandatory.
The new circumstances reveal that if the furnishings are truly versatile, small simple changes to the layout may be enough to solve the new problems. Sometimes sustainability means not produce new products if you don’t need them.