Intrigued by a newspaper article with the headline: “the end of sitting” I visited the workscape installation by RAAAF in Amsterdam last month. This installation sprouted from the minds of the Rietveld brothers after medical research concluded that people who sit too much risk life threatening diseases and die earlier. The sculpture (or is it a landscape?) invites you to get physically involved, but it’s not a gentle invitation. It feels like camping on a difficult site and is a critical response to the ergonomic comfort of the modern office chair. RAAAF promotes standing as the new norm.
When I started to explore it’s sloping surface and angled caves, it was not entirely without danger; I had to be very alert not to fall into gaps and holes or lose balance. I unwillingly remembered the basement in the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Libeskind, where the architect used a sloping floor as a metaphore for the desorientation one feels when migrating to a foreign country. This sculpture in a way does the same; all familiar notions of a work environment are turned upside down.
Because it is hard to find a comfortable position, you have to keep trying and moving. You can hang-out, climb, stand or lie down on this sculpture and I wondered; is this the future of how our work environment will look like? It certainly stretches ones mind and muscles but the end of sitting should be interpreted in this phase as a research project, a testing model, a mindscape.
What about sitting? Is it to be abandoned at all?
Sitting is dangerous if you do it as extensively as we do today. We sit at work, travel home sitting and end our day sitting, before going to sleep. The body is not involved into action and yet movement is what we are made for! Immobility seems to be the center of the problem, being stuck as we are staring at our screens all day. This challenged Govert Flint, graduation student at the Design Academy Eindhoven 2014. At the Dutch Design Week he introduced his exo-skeleton chair which makes computerwork more dynamic. He studied the movements of ballet dancers who inspired him to use physical action, instead of mouseclicks, to give commands to a computer.