Roaming Herds

Austen Gillen-Keeney + Madeline Kil

The Future of Work


Jono Sturt + Clement Blanchet


Today’s workplace culture has changed drastically over the last century as people are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent. While the modern-day open office design was first implemented in an effort to promote greater collaboration and communication among workers, it has failed to address the dynamic and flexible nature of the current knowledge worker. Instead, the current system appears merely to be a stripped down version of the cubicle farm, organized in fields of static identical surfaces with little to no flexibility for the individual worker. As real estate continues to become more valuable, how can the office of the future leverage new technologies to create a dynamic work environment?

Roaming Herds seeks to define a new human-centric office furniture system that can grow and evolve with the office as new needs are presented. This system builds from the organizational methods presented in Bürolandschaft and the principles Robert Propst exercised in Action Office I, offering previously unachievable opportunities when combined with new and emerging technologies. Bürolandschaft, originally a German term meaning “office landscape” supports a less rigid and more socially democratic layout. The resulting floor plan layout is derived from placing workers who communicate frequently with one another in close proximity, regardless of their departmental status. This led to the creation of much more fluid floor plans and placed an emphasis on reallocating space back to the individual worker. While Action Office I eventually morphed into the much dreaded cubicle farms, Propst’s initial intentions were centered on creating a flexible and personalized system that could adapt and change based on individual workers’ needs. Through the examination of worker’s patterns of movement and an increased interest in supporting employees' physical and psychological needs, Propst developed a system to provide workers space, privacy, and flexibility, without compromising the need for communication and collaboration. Action Office represented a fully integrated furniture system that used panels, shelves, and open storage components that were all fully adjustable. This allowed workers the ability to alter their table height, move shelves, rearrange storage and create a workstation that would truly meet their personal needs.

Roaming Herds is conceptually based on the development of magnetic levitation, a method popularly associated with JR Central’s maglev train in Japan. While the implementation of magnetic levitation in this project is concentrated on speed and efficiency, Roaming Herds focuses less on physical speed and more on the precision of movement across surfaces horizontally and vertically. Divided into two distinct furniture collections, task and lounge, Roaming Herds leverages the power of AI to enable individual elements the capability to transform and move with the user throughout the day, week, and month. The new types of flexibility imaginable with a furniture system governed by AI that hovers above the floor plane are endless. With this, we are interested in exploring an ever-changing system that works within the constraints of more tangible architectural elements. Sited within Paris Saclay’s QEP campus, Roaming Herds shows the potential possibilities and impacts such a system could have at the scale of a floor plate.