Sight-lines: giving people aesthetic respite from focused work with interesting things to look at

November 8, 2021

Urban studies wonks will be familiar with the concept of a ‘flaneur’ – Charles Baudelaire in the 19th century coined this term to describe someone who loafs about town, absorbing happenings on the street for the purpose of experience.

In fact, Paris might have always been a great example of a place which has been designed over time to enable its inhabitants to enjoy their own proximity – if not through interaction than the simple pleasure of observation (there are sight-lines everywhere!)

Humans love to see and be seen, especially if they feel comfortable and safe. This is something powerful when considering how best to design workplaces.

A workplace which offers open sight-lines can inspire people’s thoughts by offering dynamic visual cues and you can design spaces to enable spontaneity as well as offer functional information by knowing where people sit and pause and what vantages these positions offer.

A great example of this is the Level Up board room at StartWell.

A section of the second floor is cut away to form a mezzanine for the Level Up boardroom to look down onto the reception/cafe and street below.

It’s positioned as a partial mezzanine overlooking the building’s reception/cafe and entrance. So, seated in the room closest to one glass wall, some meeting attendees have clear sight-lines down on espressos being made and people entering the building. Additionally – even if people at the back of the room can’t see the action downstairs they can all enjoy sight-lines beyond the reception and through the street-facing double-height glass windows at traffic outside and Toronto’s iconic streetcars rolling down King Street in two directions.

Within the room itself, there are a number of things to look at which provide interesting cues for thought, including:

  • Suspended bulbs hung in a randomised fashion over the table. The bulbs are exposed filament LEDs chosen in differing sizes and shapes – with the glass and filament of various designs.
  • A clock is mounted to a side of the room.
  • Bookshelves flank a large screen in the middle of the room – so even if people are looking at a presentation their gaze can wander without a head-turn to see plants or books placed on the shelves.
  • Plants on window-sills and bookshelves.
  • An unpainted/exposed brick wall contrasts the white-painted brick on the other side of the glass and outside of the room.
  • Curtains which can be drawn if needed for privacy.