The Phone Booth Is Alive and Well

 

Soundproof booth by ROOM

 

Cell phones may have caused phone booths to disappear from city streets, but these same phones are causing them to pop up in open-office cultures. As humans, we still have a basic need for privacy.

 

The diversity and flexibility of these small spaces makes them very relevant in today’s office plans. Phone booths can be spaces where employees can take a quick personal call, or they can be a destination to work away from the desk.

 

As we’ve discussed in other blogs, the open office floor plan, now fairly standard for office planning, has some disadvantages that have become more apparent over years. Complaints about lack of privacy and loud work environments sometimes have led to less productivity and discontented users. These concerns have started to shift the focus of the open office, and the phone booth has become one solution to these issues. To be successful, the open office plan needs a phone booth much like it needs low partitions and access to daylight. Offering the user choices on where and how they work can make a significant impact on their experience and greatly improve an otherwise public floor plan.

 

As part of the exploration to define the phone booth, I looked at a number of Amenta Emma projects, diverse in size, budget and end user (see above sketch). These diagrams became very helpful in identifying similarities in size, shape and furniture for a “typical” phone booth. Overall, a scale that comfortably fits one to two people is common and, for the most part, the phone booth has a solid materiality to maximize privacy and isolation. What’s inside these phone booths also has become a focus for study. We have found that phone booths lacking in technology aren’t as successful or as well utilized as ones that accommodate multiple job types and a mobile staff.

 

Looking at broader trends outside of our work, modular/prefabricated units are increasing in popularity. Available in a variety of price ranges, these pods are significantly smaller than traditional phone booths but include all the technology necessary in a modern office. In terms of constructability, their transient nature gives them clear advantages and allows for ultimate flexibility in placement and even relocation. In the same realm, wall hung units/pods (see BuzziHood image to the left) also are emerging as popular alternatives to the traditional phone booth. These wall mounted “pods” also range in size and style, but the concept is always the same -- to provide a space away from a workstation that offers flexibility and choice in the everyday work experience.

 

Whether prefabricated or traditionally built, the phone booth of tomorrow seems to be 

decreasing in size and increasing in technology and flexibility. Acoustical concerns, accessibility and privacy will continue to dictate the phone booth aesthetic but having a more intimate scale will allow for more phone booths to find their way into office planning. The open office needs these spaces to continue evolving and to offer choice and create a flexible, appealing work environment.

Custom seating by Studio O+A

 

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