The mystery behind workspaces
Severance is a fictional series, with hints of a psychological thriller, which premiered this year on AppleTV+, created by Dan Erickson and directed by the popular American actor Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle.
The story's plot takes place in a sinister biotechnology corporation, the Lumon conglomerate, which uses a certain medical procedure to separate the non-work memories of its employees, separating them from part of their essence as human beings beyond their lives as workers of office.
Severance's concept revolves around the idea that employees accept their lives as belonging to the office as if it were the home where they will be raised, a home that is mysterious and somewhat creepy. The set designers define the spaces they created as â€œan office that resembles a haunted playgroundâ€.
Therefore, the spaces in the series had to express the opposite of what current office design trends advise for the comfort and mental well-being of its employees, so some of the references used were those of mid-20th century American offices century, such as designs by Eero Saarinen and Kevin Roche. For the decoration, timeless accessories were chosen; the end result is a workspace with a dark but attractive aura, mixing shades of steel that playfully make the office resemble a prison.
Speaking of the similarities to a prison, aside from the fact that not a single window can be seen in the building, Severance's color palette mixes gloomy and dull colors like gray, green, and brown, further distancing itself from the current vision of ideal office where color palettes carefully think about how each color and hue affects employees emotionally.
The man in charge of bringing the menacing Lumon conglomerate to life was set designer Jeremy Hindle who, together with set decorator Andrew Baseman, managed to create an aesthetic as gloomy as it was seductive for the cursed spaces, objects, and furniture that inhabit the installations of severity.
One of Hindle's main inspirations for the set design was Frenchman Jacques Tati's 1967 film Playtime, the plot of which takes place in a massive concrete, steel, and glass building. The idea was born from thinking of workspaces that at first glance made their objective and function clear: to work. To do this, it was enough to review the office decoration trends of the 60s and 70s, repetitive, monotonous, and simply boring work areas where the space fulfilled its priority function, and the employees carried out their daily activities without further ado. And that is exactly what the sinister Lumon conglomerate wants from its employees: to separate forever from the concept of life beyond work.