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When Private Comes into Public View

Oct. 17, 2017

There is, obviously, a lot of talk about the ways in which our private commercial spaces are becoming public—in particular, the walls we are losing in offices as we eschew private space for open plans, in addition to buildings rapidly becoming more multi-use than ever before.

There is an equally important conversation happening about the ways in which public spaces are seeing an increase in use due to advancements in technology. In every town I’ve visited in the last couple of years—from rural Chico, Calif., to New York City—it seems as if it’s equally impossible to find a spot to sit down in coffee shops, the tables being used for everything from religious study to important Skype interviews. While in Toronto in September, I went for a walk outside my hotel to find folks posted in public parks working on their laptops and phones, much like I was earlier in the day in the hotel restaurant. When I asked my server if it would be OK for me to take one of their tables for such a long time, she laughed and said it was sweet I would ask, but they’ve become used to their dining room acting as a secondary office location. Across the street, I watched a man in a suit furiously typing on his laptop while in the park filled with patients from the adjacent hospital walking with their nurses. What’s more, it felt natural to see the typically private rehabilitation process being done out in the open, even with oxygen tanks and IV bags in tow, the private truths of healing being thrust into a public space.

As the lines between public and private become more blurred, it’s important to note the special considerations that need to be made, like in the case of the Albion Public Library in Toronto by Perkins+Will (Product in Placement, p. 52). In June of this year, the Pew Research Center released a study that stated 53 percent of millennials (ages 18-35 as of Fall 2016) used public libraries or bookmobiles in the previous year compared to 45 percent of Gen Xers, 43 percent of Baby Boomers, and 36 percent from the Silent Generation (born 1925-42). As the Perkins+Will designers found, this public space in the Rexdale suburb was too vital to the community to be shut down during the redesign.

On the opposite side of the spectrum—and North America—Allsteel’s new Los Angeles showroom was created as a working space for those in the industry. The team at Wolcott Architecture Interiors worked with Allsteel to design a space that could “support how people work today … where workers could have heads-down time as well as areas for quick meetings.” It’s a trend we’re seeing more: Showrooms are brushing aside the pedestals and spotlights so that visitors can put the products to use rather than trying to imagine how their projects can incorporate the pieces.

The intention of this issue is to introduce products that work into the public vs. private discussion, because, as I believe, good-looking products are worth staring at while well-designed products are worth using.

As Ray Eames said, “What works is better than what looks good. The looks good can change, but what works, works.”

Additionally, as we swiftly move into the season of giving thanks, I want to thank the i+s and Stamats Communications teams, as well as our awesome contributors, for all of the wonderful work they do. With all of the changes that have occurred since January 2016, they have ensured we hit every mark along the way. The beautiful work we put out every month is because of them. Thank you all for loving this magazine and striving to provide only the best, and for handling all of my late-night ideas and last-minute changes with grace.

Kadie Yale | Editor-in-Chief
[email protected]

About the Author

Kadie Yale | Former Editor-in-Chief

Kadie Yale holds a BA in Industrial Design from San Francisco State University and a MA in Decorative Art History and Theory from Parsons the New School. In her role as editor-in-chief from 2015-2018, she led the interiors+sources team in creating relevant content that touches on sustainability, universal design, science, and the role of design in society.

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