The conversation pit or that sunken space where people congregate has slowly rekindled its way into modern spaces. Some architects acknowledge that conversation pits are a substantial architectural element and not just a trend. The sunken living area design is a great way to create dimension, break huge spaces, and invite people to converse in a comfortable space.
It was in the 1920s when architect Bruce Goff designed a house in Oklahoma with a sunken seating area. The first conversation pit was largely attributed to him. However, it was The Miller House by architect Eero Saarinen and designer Alexander Girard that accelerated the pit’s popularity which peaked in the 1970s.
Consequently, when people began using the lounge area as a television room and not a space for communication the call for such design weakened.
In modern-day architecture, the conversation pit has been visible not only in living areas but in communal outdoor spots as well. Hotels and other types of holiday accommodations have made use of the pit design to encourage guest interaction. The poolside or the common area is the familiar spot for the conversation pit. Contemporary houses with generous spaces have also adapted the design, it is a great alternative to the typical lounge setup. The shift in people’s lifestyles and perspectives during the pandemic may have awakened the appreciation for spaces where people can converse.
The classic layout of a conversation pit is a recessed space accessed through a small staircase. It is a reasonable way of splitting a huge space in an orderly way. The seating is usually poured concrete in an L or U shape made comfortable with cushioned seats. However, its aesthetics have changed depending on the space where it is embedded. Whatever form it takes, the common intention stays the same – to bring about dialogue, intimacy, and comfort.
Here are some simple guidelines to look at when considering a conversation pit. First, conversation pits work well in big spaces. Locating it in a cramped space may look forced. Second, be mindful of the height and the steps as you want the people to feel comfortable when seated. Always consider comfort when choosing the design, cushion, and materials. Third, put attention to the local climate and environment and this should also guide your choice of design and materials. Ultimately, when considering outdoor conversation pits be cautious about the waterproofing and drainage, you don’t want the pit to collect water.
Photo credits: Sergio López, Interiors Digital, Egue y Seta