Eddi Törnberg

Inspired by the laziness of humans, a Swedish designer built a workspace that runs in part on body heat and movement.

Swedish designer Eddi Törnberg has invented the perfect workspace for the environment and cost-obsessed CEOs. "Unplugged," a thesis project of the graduate of Beckmans College of Design, in Stockholm, allegedly powers its own electronic devices by exploiting the finest qualities of humankind – i.e., we get hot and stomp around a lot.

Törnberg was inspired to create this parasitic furniture after a line from Harriet Beecher Stowe got stuck in his head: "Human nature is above all things lazy." A glum fellow, he believes that "few people in the long term have the will, interest and energy to struggle to achieve a sustainable society." So if we won't work to help the environment, he wondered, why not exploit our sedentary lifestyles to get the job done?

Today's workplace often requires employees to sit like great turnips behind desks all day. Törnberg sees such limited motion as a benefit, and has equipped "Unplugged" with a few unusual means of turning idleness into electrons:

The "Seebeck Effect": In 1821, German-Estonian physicist Thomas Seebeck found that if you make certain materials warm on one side and cool on the other, the temperature differential generates electricity. The metal seat of this desk's chair gets hot by cozying up to a worker's butt, while the bottom remains chill thanks to a pattern of metal fins. The result: a few extra minutes of laptop life.

Piezoelectricity: This term refers to electricity formed by pressure. The carpet of "Unplugged" is enriched with crystals that respond to pressure with a little release of power. While you might not walk around a lot at work, it's probable that your feet are constantly shifting and your chair rolling back and forth, tapping into a potential well of ener-fuel.

Photosynthesis: OK, so this doesn't actually occur with the employee.... not yet, anyway. It's happening in that plant beside the desk, which Törnberg has modified to work a little like a potato battery.

With this array of passive generators, writes the designer, the workspace moves "sustainable design from the realm of demand and effort and makes it into something tailored to our everyday existence." He doesn't specifically say it works, though, or if it does how well and long. In the past, he has built a chair that powers a lamp. Still, even if this workspace experiences blackouts its creator is delving into important matters that we'll have to think hard about in the future, if not immediately. If it helps save energy, posterior power sounds great to me. (H/t to Design Milk.)

All photos courtesy of Eddi Törnberg.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a map of London Uber driver James Farrar's trip data.
    Transportation

    For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

    Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

  2. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  3. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.
    Environment

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  4. Transportation

    When a Transit Agency Becomes a Suburban Developer

    The largest transit agency in the U.S. is building a mixed-use development next to a commuter rail station north of Manhattan.

  5. People standing in line with empty water jugs.
    Environment

    Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ Water Crisis, One Year Later

    In spring 2018, news of the water crisis in South Africa ricocheted around the world—then the story disappeared. So what happened?

×