We all know what curtains are. And we all know what walls are. Now let's take both of those common items, shove them in a mixing bowl, add a dash of office and see what we get after a healthy mixing. The resulting concoction is a curtain wall or wall of curtains. Sorry architects, I'm going to take a term that means something with a completely different meaning in your trade and apply some meaning in a somewhat similar context.

Curtain walls are something I've been seeing making appearances regularly in office designs recently. From what I can tell, you can achieve a variety of goals using the basic concept of separating space using a wall made of fabric:

  • define a semi-private space in close proximity to open offices
  • add some color and texture to the office
  • create a new and somewhat temporary workspace
  • hide unsightly areas like copy rooms and material libraries
  • direct the proper flow of traffic

Though they have a number of benefits, they very clearly can have some drawbacks, specifically related to the privacy (or lack thereof) these types of soft meeting space have.

A common occurrence in large cubicle environments was that people seemed to speak more loudly than they might normally, because the walls seemed to provide extra privacy. Instead of a quiet library-type environment, Ted from sales always seemed to be yammering on loudly, trying to close the next important deal. You get the idea.

That said, with these spaces popping up, there are clearly some uses that have been found for them where the pros outweigh the cons. People increasingly want more privacy—or at least the feeling of privacy or a place to hide away in the midst of a busy office. While curtain walls certainly don't offer the silence some would like, the visual privacy does provide a kind of office oasis.

Does your office use any soft walled, curtain walls?


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