May 31/12

Hot Desk

Posted by Rory

Late last year, Marketing Magazine were nice enough to write their cover story about Boys and Girls’ first 2 years in business, and how we were growing up fast.

In the first paragraph Michael Cullen wrote “the reception is small and routine”, the reference being in comparison to the visual onslaught of the Lego boardroom table that followed. It became something of an in-joke in the agency – we mentioned it every time we ushered people into our “small and routine” reception and I must admit, it got my goat.

Plans were drawn, crayons sharpened and collaborators consulted to come up with a reception desk that would put “small and routine” in its place for once and for all. This is the result of months of planning and some fairly heavy scientific research.

A company called Twisted Image finally started production in February. Their job was to fabricate permanent hot air balloons strong enough to carry the weight of the desk. A new type of rubber composite was used to make balloons that were genuinely air-tight and would never degrade, and Caltech were called upon to supply a Heluim/Hydrogen hybrid gas with an atomic weight 150 times lighter than Helium alone.

Ribbons reinforced with Carbo-Titanium (and in pretty colours) were used to secure the table top to the balloons, tied off on an aerospace grade titanium cleat.

Finally, giant Jenga blocks were carved from solid wood and placed on the reinforced floor.

All-in-all, a “small and routine” project for Boys and Girls.


Photographs by Liam Murphy

Comments (29)

Most excellent reception Ive ever seen….Hope there are no late night Jenga games :-)

Comment by — Roisin Bermingham May 31, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

Wait – what’s the date today?

Awesome stuff guys. I gotta get me one of those.

Comment by — Richard Delevan May 31, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

That’s fabulous. What’s the quote on the wall?

Comment by — EmilyAM May 31, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

see this house

Comment by — miguel June 1, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

Cool project! But I don’t understand the statics. If the table is lying on top of the blocks, and the balloons are equilibrated to equal the weight of half of the table top, then adding any weight to the table (such as a computer) would make the ballons go down. (ie, the mass of the table top would change and it would no longer be in equilibrium.)

So clearly the table top is anchored to the jenga blocks, which must also be anchored to the floor. RIght?

Carry to share any more information with a curious professor?

Thank you,
John Ochsendorf

Comment by — John Ochsendorf June 4, 2012 @ 12:46 am

That is awesome, but I don’t know if I will believe it until I see a video of those balloons being moved a bit. Are they really floating or are they attached to the ceiling?

Either way, I love desk.

Comment by — Bridger Maxwell June 5, 2012 @ 12:07 am

All the praise goes to the balloons and jenga blocks. Why, why is the white table top left without any credit?

Comment by — Dian Warsosumarto June 5, 2012 @ 12:27 am

I’m afraid I don’t believe this. It’s mostly the claim of “a Heluim/Hydrogen hybrid gas with an atomic weight 150 times lighter than Helium alone”. Hydrogen is only half as dense as helium, and as far as I can tell, the density of two mixed gases is going to be an average: there’s no eutectic-like system going on.

Id’ further dispute the claim of a material that does not allow the passage of hydrogen molecules. I’d also note the strings appear very thick: if they used titanium in any significant amount they would be too heavy.

Also, the article doesn’t explain what the desk is made of. What kind of very light material is it? I also wonder how the desk wouldn’t wobble constantly as weight and pressure are placed upon it.

Of course, I could be wrong. It’s mostly the “150 times lighter” part that worries me. And the fact that consulting Caltech scientists seems much harder than bolting fake balloons to the ceiling.

Comment by — Alex June 5, 2012 @ 4:32 am

Except it’s bullshit. The lift of thoe balloons would be unable to support the desk. It’s not even close.

Comment by — Quade June 5, 2012 @ 5:58 am

It’s possible that the balloons are real, (although they look kinda fake to me, real balloons are usually a bit transparent) if there is thick steel reinforcement running through the Jenga blocks. This way the table could be supported from only one side.
However, If I were going to build it, not only have a steel pipe through the blocks, I’d also make the balloons fake, and run a steel cable from the ceiling to support the other end of the desk, especially since people have a tendency to sit on the corners of desks.

Comment by — Rob June 5, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

I agree, there’s something fishy about this. Please can you give us a bit more info on how it works? Because at the moment it all seems a bit wrong…

Comment by — Ellie June 6, 2012 @ 5:12 am

First up, really nice design!
But WHY are all the comments debating the balloons and their supportive ability???
This is a design piece just like the tap supported by water, in that IT IS AN ILLUSION and made to look that way. Frustrating that such a nice design piece has been bombarded by stupid comments about its believability!!!

Comment by — Really? June 7, 2012 @ 12:15 am

Love this desk sooo much. I have desk envey.
Ahr, so that’s how they got the house to float in the film UP ;-) who knew.

Comment by — Ellie June 15, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

LMAO, I’m floored how many people are wondering how the balloons work, and if they are real.
I Love the table, it’s making me want to add them to my restaurant.

Comment by — Bill Ashton June 19, 2012 @ 5:28 am

There’s not “something fishy”, it’s a joke. Either the desktop is cantilevered or there’s a hidden anchor to the ceiling. The limit to the lift supplied is the mass of the air displaced by the balloons, so about 1.5 g/L for weightless balloons filled with weightless gas supported by weightless ribbons. Cute, witty, nice looking? Check. Real? No.

Comment by — Bert June 24, 2012 @ 4:49 am

It’s BS.

Air at 70 deg F and 14.7 psi (normal atmospheric pressure at sea level) weighs .15 lbs/ft*3.

Assume the volume of the balloons is a cube 4 ft on each side – which is generous from looking at the picture. That would be a volume of 64 ft*3.

If the ‘gas’ in the balloons, and the balloons themselves, weighed NOTHING at all, the balloons would displace 64 ft*3 * .15 lbs/ft*3 = 9.6 lbs of air.

Subtract the weight of the ballons, the “titanium reinforce ribbons”, and the gas, and you’re talking a lot less than 9.6 lbs.

So, sure, make the desk out of foam, put a cardboard PC on it, and maybe the balloons could hold it up.

I think the story would be just as good if they showed how they made fake ballons look like they were floating, when in fact that were bolted to the ceiling.

Comment by — Steve July 2, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

One day when I work at Pixar this will be my desk!

Comment by — Cat Morley July 3, 2012 @ 7:10 pm