Space dividers

Space dividers are all the semi-permanent features that help organise open-plan spaces without really forming a definitive, closed boundary. Space dividers are often employed to create more privacy or improve acoustics and there is always something to choose from: from classic, adaptable screens, to larger partitions and modular systems.

One of the most iconic space dividers is architect Alvar Aalto’s sinuous, pinewood ‘Screen 100’ space divider, manufactured by Artek since 1936. Charles and Ray Eames, the celebrated post-war designers, follow up with an adaptable, plywood version of their own in 1946, creating the ‘Folding Screen’, manufactured to this day by Vitra. Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen’s 2010 ‘tapered softwall’ for molo is somewhat reminiscent of these designs, being a large honeycomb paper structure which can be stretched and arranged into any desired shape.

Another way to construct a space divider is to hang it from the ceiling. Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s ‘Algue’ for Vitra consists of small, plant-shaped, plastic elements that can be joined together to form space dividers of any desired size, similarly to Lena Peter’s ‘Structur’ for Zeitraum, where the elements are strips of cellulose. Claire Davies’s ‘Classic Botti’ space divider is a curtain consisting of bead strands, which form an image of Botticelli’s Venus when closed.

Smaller space dividers can be either freestanding screens, such as Bertil Harström’s ‘Wannabetree’ for Glimakra of Sweden AB, where colourful blots covered in a sound absorbent material are mounted on a single, metal foot. Another product which is suitable for separating individual desks is ophelis’s ‘Syntax Space division system’ where modular, acoustic panels can be configured around a workstation, granting more privacy in an open-plan office.

‘ARCHITECTS glass’ by acoustic pearls are low, freestanding glass panels which are specially designed to absorb sound. Sound-absorbing, and literally green, ‘Project - Grüne Wand® ’ by art aqua is a plant-covered space divider. Jack Godrey Wood’s and Tom Ballhatchet’s ‘Build’ for MOVISI is more indirect in its reference to nature: in this system, open, cell-shaped compartments can be stacked on one another to create a space divider and a fully functional shelf.

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