John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Modeled after Catholic confessionals, this portable furniture allows people a private place to chat away from all the hubbub.
Jackhammers jamming, auto-horns blatting and crashing waves of daytime chatter make walking in the city an auditory safari. Some people love to bask in the stirred-up gumbo of noise, others can't stand it, preferring to erect sound-proofing in their apartments or just staying away from cities, period.
Product designer Nick Ross' views on noise pollution aren't exactly clear. But given the nature of his "Confession" furniture series, he comes off as a guy who values a bit of quiet. Maybe even a man who'd shush you while talking in the library. The lightweight design of these new pieces, modeled after the Catholic confessionals where sinners embark on the Sacrament of Penance, allows them to be mobilized to whatever location would benefit from a private place to chat – a crowded bus terminal, say, or an office in which coworkers flood the zone with food-crunching and laughter.
ever since architects started taking down interior walls to create airy open spaces, a new set of problems have arisen. whilst these areas are more communal, there is an issue with finding discrete, private areas which take you away from the noise of open spaces. confession is a new furniture archetype which seeks to resolve these problems of privacy and seclusion. it enables the creation of a space for a quick meeting, to hear a personal story, a quiet place to read the paper with a coffee or even somewhere to indulge in office gossip. it also reminds us of what we lose in the era of shared and open communication.
Ross, who is studying at the Konstfack college in Stockholm, created the furniture in partnership with the awesomely named Swedish design hose, Blå Station. While the team has yet to deploy "Confession" in super-noisy cities, they did showcase it this year in Milan at a former tie-weaving factory, of all places. Standing with austere dignity amid a bevy of other, more colorful products, the double-windowed apparatus allowed curious art lovers to chat up a storm without anybody listening in. And on the flip side of the coin, the dense, pressed-polyester hood prevented all but the screechingest of sounds from muddling the conversations.
I have an e-mail out to Ross to ask if he lives in a particularly loud area of Stockholm, or whether there's meant to be a religious aspect to this furniture. Is it the first step toward a sneaky plan to convert godless cityfolk? (Probably not!) In the meantime, you can check out more of his work at his website. These bowls based on sonar scans of lake bottoms would make a nice Mother's Day gift, while the coffin-shaped iPhone covers meant to prevent people from becoming walking Apple advertisements are simply delightful.