The Phonebooth Is Back


This time it is for open offices, when you need a bit of peace and quiet.

Just the other day, I was getting ready to be interviewed for a podcast and someone came to visit; I had to run upstairs and ask everyone to be very quiet, and thought that perhaps I should have designed my office as a soundproofed booth if I was going to do a lot of this podcasting thing. Or maybe I need a phone booth.

People in modern open offices have to deal with this kind of thing a couple of times a day. How do you have a private conversation? How do you get interviewed? One solution is, yes, the phone booth. That's what Brian Chen and Morten Meisner-Jensen of ROOM have designed with their latest version.

Brown room


We have shown what are now known as "modular privacy spaces" before, but these are different; they are smaller (really getting close to phone booths), cheaper (they are sold direct from the manufacturer) and quieter. They are definitely not the phone booths from the Colin Farrell or Superman movies.

specifications for phone booth image


Among the product’s new features is a motion sensor that automatically turns on and off the LED light and ventilation fans when someone enters or exits the booth, enabling a more sustainable use of energy. The addition builds on ROOM’s foundation of environmental sensibility, as each booth uses soundproofing materials made out of 1,088 recycled plastic bottles. To date, ROOM has repurposed more than three million bottles and counting.

A few years ago I wondered, Will the office go the way of the phonebooth and mailbox? In it, Jo Heintz of design firm Staffelbach said that private offices weren't coming back and that headphones are the new wall.

That didn't work out so well, because you sometimes need more than a set of headphones. There has been so much pushback against the open office in the last few years, but it's a lost cause to hope that the private office is coming back.

However, it makes some sense that the phonebooth is. More at ROOM.