NEAR Toolbox

Anything but bog-standard: The NEAR toolbox needs to be actively designed and makes a lot possible. Photograph: Regula Bearth




Salmon pink and surgeon green or fiery red and sea blue: These are the colours of the curtains in the NEAR Toolbox room. They shape it. When the curtains are drawn, the room transforms into a gaudy cocoon and enables fully concentrating on the activity or the person opposite. If, on the other hand, the curtains are open, the room reveals why it is called the NEAR Toolbox.

The New Workspaces Project (NEAR) develops and tests spaces for learning, teaching and collaboration in the digital age. Over a period of three years, a new room will be launched every year. The first is the Toolbox, which offers a variety of tools for teaching and collaborating with learners both present and absent.

On entering the room, one is struck by the wooden wall at the front. Hanging off it are folding chairs, table tops and trestles. I can place these in the room to suit my taste. The writable and magnetic walls help me sketch. Personally, I am thrilled by the possibility of five people sharing the screen at the same time via two projectors. The built-in video conference system enables showing projected content to physically absent persons.

The NEAR Toolbox is my favourite piece because the space actively challenges me to create space, besides facilitating attractive, hybrid collaborative scenarios. But it is also my favourite piece because conceptualising and carrying out a project with an interior designer, a graphic designer, a concept developer and our AV technicians was extremely enjoyable. Finally, I also got much pleasure from realising that having the courage to use colourful curtains pays off.

In this section, members of ZHdK and guest contributors present their favourite objects. For other favourite pieces visit:
Renato Soldenhoff ( is a project developer, heads the Digital Skills & Spaces Programme and is responsible for E-Learning at ZHdK. He is a member of the Digital Council.
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