How do you envision corporate hell? It probably involves fluorescent light, a micromanaging boss and a tiny, impersonal cubicle. When they debuted in the s, cubicles were supposed to make offices breezier, less confined and more efficient. It started in the s, when designer Robert Propst headed up the research arm of furniture manufacturer Herman Miller. At the time, the company was known for triumphant mid-century design like Eames chairs and playful sofas modeled after marshmallows.
Propst wanted to understand every aspect of the modern office—and found inspiration in his own working style.
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He realized that he was happier, healthier and more productive when he had different surfaces on which to work. That flew in the face of the typical office of the s and s. For years, workers had labored in large, open spaces filled with rows of metal or wooden desks. Only those with executive status had the coveted private offices away from the hustle and bustle of typewriters, cigarette smoke and telephone calls that characterized a busy open office—and as a result of that privacy, they were more productive than the common worker bee. Robert Propst. Credit: Denver Post via Getty Images.
There had to be a better way. Acoustical panels helped insulate workers from the noise of telephone calls and typing. The components were more geared to individual workers than to large companies that needed to accommodate large numbers of people, and they were hard to put together. Instead, they often purchased the furniture for their own homes rather than placing them in offices.
Action Office was beloved by designers—and dismissed by just about everyone else. Faced with the failure of his first concept, Propst went back to the drawing board and created the Action Office II. The new design took his acoustical panel concept to the next level.
The panels became miniature walls of multiple heights that separated each space into its own office without completely cutting a worker off from colleagues. Informative, Inspiring and Empowering conversations with ordinary people that decided to Live Their Passion! An Original Calgary Podcast a mini commercial between 5 to 20 minutes.
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The Man Who Invented The Cubicle Went To His Grave Hating What His Creation Had Become
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