Jennifer Kaufmann-BuhlerSep 21, 2021
A Design History of the American Office
Albeit inspired by a progressive vision of a working environment without walls or hierarchies, the open plan office has come to be associated with some of the most dehumanizing and alienating aspects of the modern office. Jennifer Kaufman-Buhler's fascinating new book Open Plan: A Design History of the American Office (Bloomsbury, 2021) examines the history of the open plan office concept from its early development in the late 1960s and 1970s, through its present-day dominance in working spaces throughout the world, examining the design, meaning, and use of the open plan from the perspective of architects and designers, organizations, and workers. Using the progressive vision of the early promoters of the open plan as a framework for analysis, and drawing on original archival research and contemporary discussions of the open plan, this book explores the various goals embedded in the open plan and examines how the design of the open plan evolved through the late 20th century in response to various social, cultural, organizational, technological and economic changes.
Nushelle de Silva is a PhD candidate in the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her work examines museums and exhibitions, and how the dissemination of visual culture is politically mediated by international organizations in the twentieth century.