Through clever contextualisation and the right design partner, the international work environment expert successfully reappropriates a staple of outdoor architecture for the office spaces of the future.

Steelcase's Work Tents take a staple of outdoor architecture and make it a key player in the office spaces of the future

Taking the camping spirit inside with Steelcase Work Tents | News

Steelcase's Work Tents take a staple of outdoor architecture and make it a key player in the office spaces of the future

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Sometimes great design is a matter of recontextualisation, taking something that works in one place, adapting it and trying it somewhere else. Steelcase's new Work Tents are an ingenious case in point.

Connecting with nature has experienced a recent revival, and born-again campers have discovered that tent design has advanced radically over the last decade, making use of super-strong, super-light materials to create spacious and thoroughly inviting temporary shelters.

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For thousands of years, tents have given people a sense of protection and comfort. Steelcase has adapted the structures to bring these feelings into the workspaces of the future

Steelcase made their smart tangential leap following research into workplace privacy, and particularly the need for visual privacy, with the University of Wisconsin. The Steelcase Design team set out to create a solution that was portable, inexpensive, flexible and light. And as the team included a number of outdoor enthusiasts, familiar with the sense of safety and privacy a tent can offer, they had a clear direction of travel.

The team reached out to Chris Pottinger, an industrial designer who spent his career designing outdoor equipment for companies such as Big Agnes, North Face and REI.

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The larger Overhead Tent (top) is ideal for group discussions that want to stay away from prying eyes, whereas the Pod Tent (bottom) creates an environment for focused individual work

Taking the camping spirit inside with Steelcase Work Tents | News

The larger Overhead Tent (top) is ideal for group discussions that want to stay away from prying eyes, whereas the Pod Tent (bottom) creates an environment for focused individual work

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‘Tents inherently make you feel comfortable and safe when you’re inside of them’, says Pottinger. ‘The idea of bringing tents to the workplace is so innovative and something I had to be a part of.’

The challenge was more involved than pitching a standard tent indoors of course. Pottinger and the Steelcase team conducting a series of design sprints, testing new tensile structures and materials. After months of experimentation and iteration, the team settled on designs for the Steelcase Work Tents.

Both structures fit seamlessly into any office and design environment

Taking the camping spirit inside with Steelcase Work Tents | News

Both structures fit seamlessly into any office and design environment

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Featured products

The Pod Tent, partially inspired by Foster + Partners’ iconic '30 St Mary Axe' building in London, is an open-mouthed work enclave with an exposed aluminium exoskeleton. The Overhead Tent meanwhile is a gently curving pergola.

While offering privacy, the Steelcase Work Tents are a lighter and lighter-touch alternative to the traditional work enclave, playful but with a definite architectural drama. Molten marshmallows and group sing-a-longs purely optional.

© Architonic

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