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People Really, Really Don’t Like Taking the Stairs

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People will do a lot to avoid having to take the stairs. They’ll wait for an elevator, even if it’s going to take longer. Or they’ll walk far out of their way just to get to an escalator. 

In a new study, an urban planner and a psychologist observed almost 34,000 pedestrians using 13 stairways and 12 pairs of escalators in shopping centers in Montreal, and found that people would take the escalator unless the stairs were much more convenient. Doubling the distance between the stairs and the nearest escalator increases the likelihood that someone will climb by 95 percent, according to their statistical analysis. 

Granted, shoppers don't always have the same habits as, say, someone dashing to work. But people's aversion to stairs is pretty well documented. City leaders from New York to Turkey have called for residents to skip the elevator for better health. A small Canadian study found that climbing stairs is twice as difficult on the body as walking up a steep incline or lifting weights. A 2008 study found European men (but not women) who lived on higher floors of elevator-less apartment buildings had lower BMIs than their neighbors on lower floors. 

The problem in America? Because of fire safety regulations, stairs are often hard to find. Researchers have previously called for better stair design to combat rising obesity rates. Usually hidden in unmarked corners and blocked by heavy fire doors (sometimes programmed to set off alarms when opened), stairs in most urban buildings are designed to look and feel like emergency exits rather than regular routes. It’s no surprise that people don’t venture up them very often. Contrast that with the large, airy central stairs featured in buildings built before the elevator, like New York’s iconic Grand Central station. They look like they’re meant to be used. 

Incidental exercise—meaning the workout you get from going about your day, not hitting the gym—can have major impacts on public health, researchers have found. Taking the stairs more often isn’t the same as going for a 30-minute run every day, but minor everyday exertions shouldn’t be discounted, either. Because realistically, most people aren't going to stick to their gym schedule anyway. 

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Courtesy Chronicle Books
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Design
Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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Courtesy Chronicle Books

Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

"This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
Courtesy Chronicle Books

There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
Courtesy Chronicle Books
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Ikea
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Design
How IKEA Turned the Poäng Chair Into a Classic
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Ikea

IKEA's Poäng chair looks as modern today as it did when it debuted in 1976. The U-shaped lounger has clean lines and a simple structure, and often evokes comparisons to Finnish designer Aalto’s famous “armchair 406.” Its design, however, is ultimately a true fusion of East and West, according to Co.Design.

In 2016, the Poäng celebrated its 40th birthday, and IKEA USA commemorated the occasion (and the 30 million-plus Poäng chairs they’ve sold over the years) by releasing two short videos about the armchair’s history and underlying design philosophy. Together, they tell the story of a fateful collaboration between Lars Engman, a young IKEA designer, and his co-worker, Noboru Nakamura.

Nakamura had initially come to IKEA to learn more about Scandinavian furniture. But the Japanese designer ended up imbuing the Poäng—which was initially called Poem—with his own distinct philosophy. He wanted to create a chair that swung “in an elegant way, which triggered me to imagine Poäng,” Nakamura recalled in a video interview. “That’s how I came up with a rocking chair.”

“A chair shouldn’t be a tool that binds and holds the sitter,” Nakamura explained. “It should rather be a tool that provides us with an emotional richness and creates an image where we let go of stress or frustration by swinging. Such movement in itself has meaning and value.”

Save for upholstery swaps, a 1992 name change, and a new-ish all-wooden frame that's easily flat-packed, the modern-day Poäng is still essentially the same product that customers have purchased and enjoyed for decades. Devotees of the chair can hear the full story by watching IKEA’s videos below—ideally, while swinging away at their desks.

[h/t Co. Design]

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