The Outdoor Office

February 25 – October 14, 2012
The Art Institute of Chicago
Curated by Zoë Ryan, John H. Bryan Curator and Chair of Architecture and Design
The Outdoor Office is a project conducted at JODR to explore outdoor work settings for education and business environments. While portable work tools enable new kinds of workspaces, free from indoor constraints, HVAC and lighting pose financial and environmental burdens. The Outdoor Office seeks to address these problems by exploring new types of outdoor furniture and architectural elements, that could exist in an adjunct or complementary relationship with the traditional indoor workplace. This exhibit is the first public viewing of this work, and was realized with the generous support of the Architecture and Design Society and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

The research in the exhibit includes a scene from the TV show Twin Peaks where detectives brain storm in the woods, photographs of Harvard Yard and Googleplex where work is done outdoors on cafe chairs, and an image of a Plan International disaster relief office in Haiti. This research and the three hypothetical designs for outdoor workspaces are displayed on 12’ x 8’ billboards. The images of the designs shown are photographs of 1:15 scale models built at JODR.

Each design explores a different scenario: a group business meeting, individual work, and a small class. The design work focuses on adapting existing indoor work scenarios for outdoor conditions and imagining work scenarios that could only exist outdoors. In all cases establishing shade and privacy was a crucial element, as was building in appropriate materials. The designs are made with recycled rubber flooring, wood-plastic composites, UV resistant shade cloth and cast and extruded aluminum. A series of components were developed as the basis of an outdoor office furniture system, a system that can be permanently or temporarily installed for a variety of work situations.