“The Evolution of the Office” on Display
Today’s office space designs are unrecognizable to those of the past. Vibrant accent walls, floor to ceiling windows, open, collaborative spaces, modern furniture. Companies are providing a creative environment that inspires, they are making sure employees have fun at work and are happy to be there, thus increasing the productivity of their workers and success of the company.
The Denver Federal Center (DFC), originally constructed in 1941 as the Denver Ordnance Plant, a government owned contractor operated facility, is no different. As buildings on the DFC have been upgraded over the years to office and warehouse space, office designs have cycled through competing demands: Openness vs. privacy, interaction vs. autonomy. As office space design concepts in the private sector begin to shift, Building 41 on the DFC has stayed ahead of the curve.
Building 41 has undergone several remarkable transformations over the past 63 years. Most recently, GSA’s space has seen a transition to a workspace that fosters a mobile work environment. Within GSA space, there are many examples of shared spaces and meeting rooms for all GSA employees. In addition, employees work in an open floor plan with mobile workstations, allowing for maximum collaboration. The wireless network in the building allows associates to work from anywhere.
Office space evolution has taken place to reflect the changing attitudes toward work and Region 8 showcases this with its current display “The Evolution of the Office” located at DFC Building 41. The display takes us on a stroll down “office space” memory lane. The exhibit is located in the main second floor hallway until mid-August.
The display showcases these Periods of Distinct Styles:
Taylorism (1904): American engineer Frederick Taylor was obsessed with efficiency and oversight and is credited as one of the first people to actually design an office space. Taylor crowded workers together in a completely open environment, while bosses looked on from private offices, much like on a factory floor.
Burolandschaft (ca. 1960): The German office landscape brought the socialist values of 1950s Europe to the workplace: Management was no longer in executive suites. Local arrangements might vary by function—side-by- side workstations for clerks or pinwheel arrangements for designers, to make chatting easier—but the layout stayed undivided.
Action Office (1968): Bürolandschaft inspired Herman Miller to create a product based on the new European workplace philosophy. Action was the first modular business furniture system, with low dividers and flexible work surfaces. It’s still in production today and widely used. In fact, you probably know Action by its generic, more sinister name: cubicle.
Cube Farm (ca.1980): It’s the cubicle concept taken to the extreme. As the ranks of middle managers swelled, a new class of employee was created: too important for a mere desk, but too junior for a window seat. Facilities managers accommodated them in the cheapest way possible, with modular walls. The sea of cubicles was born.
Networking (Present): During the past decade, furniture designers have tried to part the sea of cubicles and encourage sociability—without going nuts. Knoll, for example, created systems with movable, semi-enclosed pods and connected desks whose shape separates work areas in lieu of dividers. Most recently, Vitra unveiled furniture in which privacy is suggested if not realized. Its large tables have low dividers that cordon off personal space, but won’t guard personal calls.