A new take on communal space is being unveiled in Los Angeles. A collaboration between the Martin Architecture and Design Workshop Foundation (MADWorkshop), The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), and ArtCenter College of Design has yielded MADWorkshop Fellow Sonia Liu’s multilevel communal seating system, which will be unveiled in the plaza at MOCA Grand Avenue on Thursday, June 2.
The seating installation, which is called “Sanke,” includes attached outdoor tables and seating for 10 to 12 in multiple heights and shapes, all connected on the same structure and made with durable, weather-resistant materials in a mixed palate of natural wood finishes and glossy colors. The goal: to encourage human interaction and a sense of togetherness among those dining together and alone.
“I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels awkward and lonely when dining alone,” explains Liu, a 24-year-old student at ArtCenter College of Design, in Pasadena. “I want to feel accompanied. This is furniture that gathers people together and creates the possibility for people to interact.” She developed the idea in a MADWorkshop-sponsored class, Re-Defining Public Furniture and Fixtures Design, dedicated to discovering the ways public space is used in the digital age.
The design of the table encourages eye contact and conversation while also allowing for different levels of closeness between those seated; the designer found via her research that different table heights and shapes were not uniformly conducive to interaction. Diners can choose different areas depending on how much they want to interact and converse with others.
“This innovative approach changes the way we interact in a communal space,” says David Martin, co-founder of MADWorkshop and member of the board of trustees at ArtCenter. “In a smartphone culture trending toward human isolation, the ‘Sanke’ design promotes human connection without forcing the issue.”
Founded last year, the MADWorkshop Foundation is designed “to identify and support the next generation of inventors and designers in the creation of beautiful and artfully designed things with a focus on technological craftsmanship.”