The first office was a dark, small wooden room – the walls glowed from the light of oil lamps and a pot-bellied stove kept the workers (or clerks, as they were known as) warm.

Or that’s what we can assume it was like back in the mid 1800s when the concept of the office workspace first started to develop.

The offices of the early 1900s felt like enormous classrooms. Rows upon rows of desks, each with one or two people working, typewriters clacking away below clouds of cigarette smoke, while executives and managers worked in private rooms along the floor’s perimeter. It wasn’t until the 1960s that architects began to seriously conceptualize office structure. A group of German designers pioneered the original open office floor plan called ‘Office Landscape’ or ‘Bürolandschaft’. Its objective was to eliminate hierarchy, all levels were haphazardly arranged in clusters surrounded by transparent partitions and plants. People despised this design, all of the typing and chatter made concentrating difficult and after a couple of years, the concept was discarded.

In 1964, furniture designer Robert Propst came up with the ‘Action Office’, a floor plan that gave workers the illusion of privacy and promoted autonomy. Each desk was long and rounded and featured a mobile, fabric-covered partition on either side, which blocked any external loud noise and prevented distraction, yet its semi-openness encouraged open communication between colleagues. The Action
Office debuted at the Federal Reserve in New York and soon after many businesses purchased the design.

Yet, what Propst never anticipated was his product’s eventual transformation into the cubicle. Managers discovered that by adding an additional partition, they could squeeze twice as many workers into the office space. By 2005, 40 million Americans were working in 42 different versions of Propst’s design except they were all called “the cubicle”.

Over the last couple of decades, the cubicle has gone through some serious transformations. In this current start-up climate, most tech businesses have re-replaced the cubicle with the open floor plan. But remnants of the cubicle remain, many offices feature conference booths which have a cube shape and two tall, fabric-covered partitions. These booths are scattered around the office and are available for meetings or as optional private spaces.

On the hunt for the perfect cubicle, open floor plan or turn of the century merchant office? Check out Turnkey Office Spacelistings now!

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