Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Jelly Bean Tables and boomerang desks

RMIT Librar - jelly bean -tablesI was browsing the University of Canberra library for information about flexible learning centers. This turned out to be very useful as UoC has both interior design and education. Also the university is quiet at present and I got excellent assistance from Beryl Pedvin, Information Literacy Consultant. In passing she mentioned that RMIT Library had "Jelly Bean" tables which could be rearranged.

After some hunting around I found an RMIT web page about the RMIT library refurbishment in 2006 and a PDF brochure with floor plans. The tables are used singly, in small clusters around a central power pole and in long sinuous strings. There are circular plastic clips to hold several desks together and a power/data outlet clipped to each desk. The desks have a single column support. There appear to be perforated metal screens which fit along the front of the desks when used for individual study.

The tables appear to be approximately 1200 x 900 mm, with the shape made up of a 1200 mm semicircle, two 600 mm circles and a 600 mm diameter 200 mm deep slice for the chair to fit in.

There appear to also be smaller oval tables (approximately 900 x 600 mm) using the same central column and leg and oval tables with a bight taken out to fit another oval. The same desktops have also been used with a higher support column for standing desks for short term computer use.

The brochure shows a floor plan with the jelly bean desks arranged around the walls in the "Group study/collaborative, noisy areas" as well as in long chains in the middle of the room, with two desks, front to front. In the "Absolutely silent study area" the desks are arranged similarly around the walls, but those in the center of the room are in clusters of four. In "Training rooms" there are rows of two desks side by side facing the front of the room, angled slightly to the center of the room, an isle and another two desks.

As with all such kidney shaped desks, they do not fit together perfectly when placed front to front, or side by side. The voids left may be useful when the desks are used for individual work, creating space between closely adjacent desks. This also provides a place for cables to run and for columns. However, the holes would be a problem when the desks are used for group work. Also the symmetrical design would not make optimal use of space when packed together.

Petal table by Moen WoodworksWhat might be better is a comma desk with one arm wider and shorter than the other. These would need to be made in left and right hand units, lowering the flexibility of the design. However, the comma shape would take less space. An example of this shape desk is the Petal, from Moen Woodworks.

If the outside of the loner arm of the comma was concave for part of its length, it could be made to fit the outer short side, allowing the desks to be closely packed front to front. If the curvature of the desk is a spiral, or a hyperbola, rather than a part of a circle, the desks could be made smaller, a circle being deeper than required for each read and for smaller modern desktop computers.

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