Desk Desk Evolution

The Great American Desk i i
iStockphoto
The Great American Desk
iStockphoto

With the disappearance of the desktop computer and the downfall of the desk phone, could we be seeing the demise of the office desk?

"We still need a place on which to set all that digital stuff," says Henry Petroski, a civil engineering professor at Duke University and author of numerous design books, including The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship.

Henry says his iPad is too heavy to hold comfortably. "And I don't have a large enough lap for all the other devices." So for Henry, an office desk is an extension of his lap. For others, it's a repository for inboxes and outboxes and books and paper piles and a smattering of old business cards grown dusty and dogeared from neglect.

And now the Great American Desk — trying to be all things to all people — is going through an identity crisis. And a multifaceted metamorphosis.

Recent desk developments include:

* The Superdesk — a sweeping platform that flows through the Barbarian Group office in New York.

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* The Kinetic Desk — from Stir, "senses your presence" and encourages you to sit and stand throughout the day.

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* The Pull-Up Bar Desk — just one of the unofficial innovations at the Brooklyn Boulders Active Collaborative Workspace in Somerville, Mass.

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Did this new Age of Deskovery begin, perhaps, with predictions of a "paperless office" in the 1990s? "The paperless office was said to arrive with the desktop computer," Henry Petroski says. "I am still waiting ..."


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