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From the Outdoor Office to the Street Café

The Inspiration Behind Backdrop

Backdrop is a system of modular panels and accessories with a simple yet important purpose, to define the outdoor spaces where people want to be.

New from Landscape Forms and designed in collaboration with KEM STUDIO, Backdrop is an innovative system of modular panels and accessories that offers one solution for every site. Adapting and inspiring designers’ creativity, the system elegantly defines outdoor spaces throughout campuses and streetscapes, in residential communities, and at retail and hospitality destinations.

Wall-height and bar-height panels are the versatile base units of Backdrop, offering virtually endless customizability in layout, functionality, and degree of enclosure. And, to truly tailor its purpose and presence, Backdrop’s selection of accessories includes integrated in-line and peninsula tables, two-sided bar tops, built-in benches, storage, bike and coat racks, and power garage modules.

Landscape Forms first began collaborating with Kansas City design firm KEM STUDIO during the creation of Upfit, the award-winning adaptive outdoor structure system that quickly became a sought-after solution for designers of high-profile outdoor spaces. Now in the second chapter of their lauded partnership, the two companies are again inspiring new ways of designing and experiencing public outdoor spaces with Backdrop.

We chatted with Backdrop’s design team to get their insight, to hear where it came from, and to find out where they think it’s headed.

"Backdrop defines space in a way no one’s ever done before outdoors,” describes Landscape Forms Chief Innovation Officer, Kirt Martin. "Thanks to its totally modular design and engineering, Backdrop is unlimited in its ability to create attractive, high-value destinations along busy routes, in open campus space, even in challenging or underutilized locations. It’s truly a ‘backdrop’ for life and living virtually anywhere.”

Accompanying Backdrop’s panels is a collection of accessories to truly tailor the configuration.
Backdrop flows and interacts with an environment’s existing features.

More than physically defining and transforming space, Backdrop uses this high degree of adaptability to craft deep human and emotional connections with its users. The potential footprints are virtually limitless, ranging from an individual booth or nook to a productive work and meeting space, to a large and branching outdoor gathering and dining space. And allowing these new destinations to appear prominently in people’s daily lives, throughout the paths people frequent the most, Backdrop enhances the day-to-day with outdoor experiences that are novel and surprising, yet intuitive and sought out for their functionality.

Offering installations this unique functionality and a clear sense of purpose, Backdrop’s accessories shape a destination's ambiance and intent: Integrated tables in standing or dining height create comfortable spaces for a meal, work, or conversation. Wood or metal bar tops placed on bar-height panels create casual, two-sided seating. Configurable bike racks, coat racks, and shelving units offer secure storage for personal items. Glass whiteboard panels enable collaboration, presentation, and interactivity. Built-in benches provide additional seating, and Backdrop’s power garage offers convenient charging for mobile devices cleanly integrated within its posts.

On the origins of Backdrop, Ryan Heiser, Director of Design at Landscape Forms, explains, "One of its main inspirations was the new category of outdoor space that emerged during COVID—the reframing and reclaiming empty or underused space on the streets to create new value for people.”

"It was about using minimal infrastructure to create destinations that still have a sense of place. That’s what we’re trying to do with Backdrop, except in a much more polished, high-quality, and highly-designed way,” Heiser continues. "The feeling you get when you see Backdrop is different than simply seeing a table and chairs set up outside—there are strong feelings of comfort, security, and privacy that go a long way in creating a space where someone really wants to be.”

Wall-height and bar-height panels in straight or L-shaped configurations are the adaptable base units of Backdrop, offering virtually endless customizability in layout, functionality, and degree of enclosure.
Backdrop applications can range from an individual booth or nook to a large outdoor gathering or productive workspace.

The degree of control Backdrop lends designers to manipulate sight lines is key in creating its clear sense of place. Even while Backdrop is airy and open to the environment overhead, providing thoughtful boundaries on the sight lines transforms the user experience with intention, giving it intuitive senses of comfort and destination.

As we're wrapping up or conversation, Kirt Martin makes an interesting connection between Backdrop and its analogues in the natural world. “Think of a beautiful hedge—how it interacts with the environment from the ground up and the way it flows and guides and interacts with the landscape,” describes Martin. "It’s all wonderfully organic. It just feels right. That’s what I think people will really enjoy in experiencing Backdrop.”


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