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The Cube
Meant to give workers autonomy and freedom, the cubicle turned
into one of the greatest symbols of white collar d...
When capitalism shifted into its
second gear in the late 19th
century, the need for greater
administration became paramoun...
Factor Two: Acknowledging and Compensating
for Less-Than-Desirable Work 

In 1905, The Larkin Building was the office of a ...
Larkin tried to make people feel better about how bad the work was by giving
them amenities: 

noonday lectures to attend…...
Factor Three: 
Pioneering Works of Architecture
Lever House
Pioneering Architecture

Skyscraper Amenities included: 
•  lots of light
•  restaurants
•  Libraries
•  sitting rooms for...
Factor Four: Suburbanization!
Connec'cut	
  General	
  
By the postwar era, suburbanization had accelerated, leading to an...
German for “office landscape”, Bürolandschaft is the origin
of the “open office plan”.
The idea was to:
•  make things more ...
Factor Six: Robert Propst’s Action Office
So where does your cubicle come from?
The Action Office.
Developed for the Herman Miller company, the Action Office was
crea...
One of the common problems we see over the course of office history is the
dissonance between design and culture.
Looking	
  Past	
  The	
  Cube…	
  
*Photo	
  from	
  the	
  new	
  (and	
  improved)	
  TBWA/Chiat/Day	
  
If we really c...
Learn More in Cubed: The Secret History Of The Workplace by Nikil Saval
Photo Credit: Katrina Ohstorm
Amazon | B&N | iTune...
CUBED: Where Did Your Cubicle Come From?
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CUBED: Where Did Your Cubicle Come From?

You mean this place we go to five days a week has a history? Cubed reveals the unexplored yet surprising story of the places where most of the world's work—our work—gets done. From "Bartleby the Scrivener" to The Office, from the steno pool to the open-plan cubicle farm, Cubed is a fascinating, often funny, and sometimes disturbing anatomy of the white-collar world and how it came to be the way it is—and what it might become.

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CUBED: Where Did Your Cubicle Come From?

  1. The Cube Meant to give workers autonomy and freedom, the cubicle turned into one of the greatest symbols of white collar drudgery and servitude. ! But what factors lead to confining your existence within three walls?
  2. When capitalism shifted into its second gear in the late 19th century, the need for greater administration became paramount and offices grew to be enormous; the number of jobs differentiated as well. The result was that the office became indistinguishable from the factory: dozens of people working in assembly-line-like arrangements, at a constant pace with mind- numbing consistency.   Factor One: Creating the “Office Utopia”
  3. Factor Two: Acknowledging and Compensating for Less-Than-Desirable Work In 1905, The Larkin Building was the office of a mail order company that, like Amazon today, sold everything and opened the workspace for clerks and administration.
  4. Larkin tried to make people feel better about how bad the work was by giving them amenities: noonday lectures to attend… classes to frequent… a company newspaper… Sound familiar?
  5. Factor Three: Pioneering Works of Architecture Lever House
  6. Pioneering Architecture Skyscraper Amenities included: •  lots of light •  restaurants •  Libraries •  sitting rooms for employees and employee families •  model apartments for the staff. The Problem? •  the endless reproducibility of the model: skyscrapers could be reproduced at nausea Pullman Building
  7. Factor Four: Suburbanization! Connec'cut  General   By the postwar era, suburbanization had accelerated, leading to an enormous flight of middle classes from the urban core; offices followed. Why? •  racial and labor tension in the cities •  the lack of space in the cities •  access to younger female workers
  8. German for “office landscape”, Bürolandschaft is the origin of the “open office plan”. The idea was to: •  make things more informal •  level hierarchies •  create more serendipitous encounters Instead, workers saw: noise, distraction, the emergence of ‘informal offices’ with makeshift screens and house plants. In Europe, the open office plan was rejected by workers, the only place where it succeeded was the US…. Factor Five: The Bürolandschaft
  9. Factor Six: Robert Propst’s Action Office
  10. So where does your cubicle come from? The Action Office. Developed for the Herman Miller company, the Action Office was created by Robert Propst who saw the potential in the open office plan but also realized that workers needed a space they could call their own. Unfortunately, Propst ran up against the desire for companies to cram as many workers into as little space as possible. His workspace became a box.
  11. One of the common problems we see over the course of office history is the dissonance between design and culture.
  12. Looking  Past  The  Cube…   *Photo  from  the  new  (and  improved)  TBWA/Chiat/Day   If we really care about the autonomy of workers, we have to make that autonomy more meaningful than being allowed to work wherever you want. When we think about the future of the office, we shouldn’t just think about design and technology. We should think about control, and who has it.
  13. Learn More in Cubed: The Secret History Of The Workplace by Nikil Saval Photo Credit: Katrina Ohstorm Amazon | B&N | iTunes | IndieBound

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