In the age of COVID, having more independent workspaces may be more important than ever.
Jaroslav Vendl, CEO at SilentLab, a Prague-based firm specializing in soundproof office pods, has had many recent discussions with teams like those at JLL, Cushman & Wakefield, and CBRE, and he says all predict a major shift in the way people work.
The latest offering in SilentLab’s MICROOFFICE line of independent workspaces was designed in Prague by Progres Atelier in collaboration with SilentLab.
“I strongly believe booths like these may be even more important. These days it seems like offices will be the places where people go a couple of times a week to brainstorm and work things out in small focus rooms, and then most people will leave the office and work from home the rest of the week.”
Designing an office pod workers actually want to use.
Jaroslav understood his pod UNIQ would have to stand out to be competitive in the saturated market. “It had to have an iconic design,” he says. “Apple has its iPhone, Tesla has its Model 3, and we wanted to have something that could be always linked to SilentLab.”
For UNIQ, that ended up being a glass ceiling designed in collaboration with Jan Kalivoda and Vojtěch Kaas of design consultancy Progres Atelier.
Together Jaroslav, Jan, and Vojtěch spent hours together in the SilentLab research facility on the outskirts of Prague, poring over sketches and prototypes to finalize UNIQ.
“When they first showed us the design we were shocked. We thought we were really screwed,” laughs Jaroslav, who says a glass ceiling is an acoustical nightmare. But it was a risk that paid off.
The glass ceiling and high-quality materials make this truly unique workspace stand out from the phone booths and privacy pods you’re used to seeing. To get a better understanding of how UNIQ was created we sent photographer Martin Janas to the outskirts of Prague to get a behind-the-scenes look at SilentLab’s research and design facility.
Inside the SilentLab Research Facility
SilentLab cofounder Jaroslav Vendl reviews materials with Progres Atelier's Jan Kalivoda and Vojtech Kaas. Photo by Martin Janas Prague design duo Progres Atelier was brought on to help bring SilentLab's vision of an iconic phone booth design to life. Photo by Martin Janas UNIQ's solid shell is entirely upholstered, and virgin wool is among the many fabric choices. Photo by Martin Janas Horizontal divisions across the upholstered surfaces connote scale, while handcrafted details around the border of each piece add subtle elegance. Photo by Martin Janas
SilentLab cofounder Jaroslav Vendl reviews materials with Progres Atelier's Jan Kalivoda and Vojtech Kaas.
Photo by Martin Janas
Prague design duo Progres Atelier was brought on to help bring SilentLab's vision of an iconic phone booth design to life.
Photo by Martin Janas
UNIQ's solid shell is entirely upholstered, and virgin wool is among the many fabric choices.
Photo by Martin Janas
Horizontal divisions across the upholstered surfaces connote scale, while handcrafted details around the border of each piece add subtle elegance.
Photo by Martin Janas
On the outskirts of Prague, nestled between two large parks in a large warehouse-type space flooded with natural light, the teams work on research and development and to apply the final upholstered touches to products like UNIQ.
Jaroslav and Progres Atelier spent the better part of eight months in intense design collaboration going over technical specifications and studying various prototypes.
Jaroslav remembers how Progres Atelier didn’t care about how long it took, how they wouldn’t take any payment upfront. They just wanted to get it right.
“They were extremely committed to our request at the beginning to be iconic,” Jaroslav says. “We argued about every last details, down to if the outside cladding should be five millimeters instead of 6.5. It’s crazy but that’s how we created UNIQ.”
Considering Progres Atelier’s background—Jan studied architecture and Vojtěch studied furniture design—the mission to design UNIQ spoke to both of their hearts from the getgo.
“We used our knowledge of light, space, and materials, and we decided to try to make the roof glass," Jan says.
“UNIQ is like small architecture because it’s the smallest place people can be in,” Jan says. “We used our knowledge of light, space, and materials, and we decided to try to make the roof glass.”
They didn’t want users to feel trapped in a booth; they wanted them to feel like they were in a secure, private space that was also free and open. “You can focus on your work or make a call but still feel like you’re a part of the office,” he says.
Digging into Details
UNIQ’s minimalist design incorporates fine details and materials like a solid oak door handle and desk and wool fabrics.
On two sides solid facades shield the user from noise, while a reassuring back wall provides a sense of security and an opaque front eliminates distractions. Above you natural light pours in thanks to the glass ceiling—a feature you simply won’t find on any other phone booth.
Sound-insulating glass and LED lighting provide quiet comfort and also keep you connected to the outside world visually. And you won’t find a single drop of plastic in this design. The entire shell is upholstered.
UNIQ also has a state-of-the-art ventilation system—the strongest out there, Jaroslav says. “We designed UNIQ so you can spend hours inside without sweating.”
The booth provides a calm, safe place to get work done without making you feel disconnected. “The two spaces are still visually and emotionally connected,” he says, pointing to the abundant sound-insulating glass.
Electrical sockets, USB, and LAN connections round out the design’s technological advancements so you have everything you need.
Award-Winning Phone Booth Design
Progres Atelier spent 40% of their studio time working on UNIQ for a year.
“It was a lot of time preparing this first product,” Jan says, adding that the team continues to talk about ways to evolve the design, including even better ventilation, though its innovative design, premium acoustic materials, and highly effective ventilation system are what garnered them the 2019 Red Dot Design Award in the first place.
“SilentLab was shocked by the design in the beginning, but they decided to put the money in their budget to do this project, and I think it was a good decision,” Jan says.
Produced by Studio Sixtysix
Photos by Martin Janas. Additional photos courtesy of SilentLab
Words by Laura Rote
Art Direction by Kristina Walton Zapata
Studio Sixtysix is the in-house creative agency to Sixtysix magazine. Studio Sixtysix stories are conceived, produced, and edited by Studio Sixtysix.