Famous chair and ottoman by Charles and Ray Eames. (Courtesy Herman Miller, Inc.)
Cranbrook, which had much in common with the Bauhaus, also had a major impact on American design, art, and architecture of the 20th century. Saarinen's son Eero studied architecture at Yale and then went to Cranbrook to work with is father. In 1941, Eero Saarinen won first prize with Charles Eames in the International Functional Furniture Competition conducted by New York's Museum of Modern Art. Saarinen discounted the use of solid wood for furniture and experimented with man made materials (Figure 1.50).
The two primary pioneering industry leaders at the time that were renown for their innovative approach to furniture design and manufacture were Herman Miller (also from Michigan) and the Knoll company.
The Herman Miller company began in 1923 when its founder, D.J. DePree, his father-in-law, Herman Miller, and others purchased the Star Furniture Company in Zeeland, Michigan. From 1931 onward, DePree moved the company from manufacturing traditional home furniture to
innovative contemporary home and office furniture. Herman Miller hired talented Bauhaus-inspired designers like Charles Eames, and others. By the 1950s, while still a small company, Herman Miller had gained an international following for its modern furniture. Today the Herman Miller company is a leading global provider of office furniture and services that support work environments. If there was a furniture category for the Nobel prize, Herman Miller would be a prime contender for its first recipient.
Hans Knoll founded his H.G. Knoll Furniture Company in New York in 1938 at the tender age of 25, and only a year after immigrating from his native Germany. Hans's father was a pioneering German manufacturer of modern furniture. Knoll also built furniture designed by Bauhaus practitioners and other artists, and in 1947 Knoll produced Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's chrome and leather Barcelona Chair (Figure 1.51).
During the war, the ambitious Hans hired a young space planner and designer, Florence Schust, who he married in 1946, and who was pivotal in helping Knoll achieve his vision of
modern furniture and interiors for modern buildings. Schust studied at Cranbrook, and at the Architectural Association in London. She later returned to the United States to complete her degree, and apprenticed with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer until she entered the Armour Institute (later called Illinois Institute of Technology) under Mies van der Rohe, who had a profound influence on her design approach.
Following their marriage, Florence and Hans also formalized their business partnership, and became known as Knoll Associates, Inc. Together, the Knolls championed the Bauhaus approach to furniture design and brought in talented designers like Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, Isamu Noguchi, Jens Risom, and Franco Albini, to develop a collection of modern furniture now considered classics in the pantheon of modern design (Figure 1.52). The Knolls also used their extensive network of relationships with designers in Europe and America to expand the range of the firm's products, including the opening of a textile division. In the early 1950s, Knoll acquired a building in East Greenville, Pennsylvania which today serves as Knoll's headquarters.
Another industry leader, and one of the oldest in the furniture manufacturing business, is Steelcase Inc. Originally established in 1912 by Peter M. Wege, Sr., Walter Idema and ten other
stockholders as the Metal Office Furniture Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Its first sale of desks was in 1915 when it furnished 200 fireproof steel desks for Boston's first skyscraper, the Customs House Tower. In 1937, it supplied oval-shaped desks, based on Frank Lloyd Wright's design vision, for the S.C. Johnson and Company building. Metal Office officially changed its corporate name to Steelcase in 1954. What is interesting about Steelcase is their innovative approach to space planning, in that they provide clients with services and products that help create highperformance working environments that integrate architecture, furniture, and technology.
The development of space planning emerged as a response to the needs of the time, particularly those of corporate growth. During the 1930s, there were only a handful of architects and designers who were outspoken on the inadequacy of how businesses were utilizing their office space. By the forties and fifties, these numbers multiplied and were joined by individuals and groups from other disciplines, including the two visionary manufacturers of contemporary furniture—the Herman Miller Company and Knoll Associates.The economic climate was favorable at the time and Herman Miller and Knoll made a conscious effort to educate their clients as well as the public. They used their showrooms as the main vehicle to attain this objective, which had an immeasurable impact on the future direction of design.
After the Second World War, there was a sudden expansion of businesses in the United States and throughout the industrialized world. This caused a massive building boom in homes and office buildings.The architects and designers of the Bauhaus were called in and commissioned to design much of corporate America. Also during the 1950s and 60s, the Knoll Planning Unit became an influential player in corporate design work. During this period of grandiose expansion, there was also a large influx of professionals, researchers, and scientists seeking employment and searching for the American dream. By the 1960s, the office workforce in the America was growing expeditiously at an unbelievable rate of 850,000 annually.This,along with the rapid expansion of businesses and the emerging technology presented by the computer and its practical application in the office environment, had a fundamental impact on the character of the office at the time.Additionally, office space suddenly became a valued commodity and rentals increased dramatically to keep pace with the growing demand.
In the Johnson Wax building (S.C. Johnson & Sons), Frank Lloyd Wright integrated the furniture with the design by painting the metal brick red—specifying the color of the brick Cherokee Red—and curving the forms. Although the design dates from 1939, it bridged the gap between the conventional office and the next development in office landscaping (Figure 1.53). It should be noted that Wright as early as 1904 recognized total office environments as having the potential to facilitate work processes, and he tried to attain this in the Larkin Company administrative building in 1904. This was the first entirely air-conditioned modern office building on record.
The office as we know it has a history going back nearly a century. Initially, it was a space housing perhaps a single person, devoid of typewriters, telephones, copiers, and other accou-terments associated with the office of today. With the spread of industrialization, the office expanded and had to accommodate additional staff.
By the turn-of-the-century, experiments were taking place with new materials, and office buildings began using steel and iron. This inspired CEOs to take a whole new look at how the office space would best be utilized (Figure 1.54). Evolution of the office after World War II underwent several phases and transformations. Up to the 1950s, offices consisted of a few high-level executives or managers supervising large numbers of clerical employees.
Between the 1950s and early 1960s, the expansion of corporate businesses created an office building boom throughout the industrialized world. As businesses proliferated, large corporate America found itself with its management scattered in many locations. By the end of the 1950s, this management dislocation gave birth to a new phenomena; the development of corporate headquarters. Florence Knoll created an internal department called the Knoll Planning Unit whose role was to work with clients to identify their workplace needs and to customize interior architecture and furnishing solutions. This unit played a significant role in transforming the American business environment of the postwar years. Likewise, Florence Knoll's philosophy that architecture and interior design must be informed by functionality and work processes, as well as by aesthetics, is considered by some to have been a significant factor in the direction of today's approach to corporate interior design.
The corporate headquarters amassed large numbers of people into one space. Prior to this, typical office building tenants occupied, at the most, several floors in that building. The new concept has an entire office building dedicated to housing one company. The rapid and enthusiastic development of corporate headquarters was also helped by new technological developments such as year around air conditioning and uniform lighting (ending dependence on natural light and ventilation), as well as the availability of materials. By the 1960s, the progressive character of the office worker was being altered by a variety of influences, primarily the absorption of a highly educated workforce pool, rapid expansion businesses, and the emergence of positive applications for the computer. Rising costs of rental office space to house these growing organizations prompted a search for improved office space efficiency. The development of space planning was born as a response to the problems of corporate growth.
By this time, the open bullpen concept was going out of fashion. The bull pen concept placed staff in open spaces with rigid grids of desks and aisles, and the executives were segregated to one or more sides in enclosed windowed offices (Figure 1.55). The executive core concept soon replaced it. This consisted of the staff being located around the building's perimeter, and the executives relocated their offices to the building core.
The German term Bürolandschaft is translated into English as office landscape (commonly called open plan design), and is a term coined by journalists because of the large number of growing plants and openness of the first European installation. It is a system of office space planning and originated in Germany in 1959 by the brothers Eberhard and Wolfgang Schnelle, whose organization later became known as the Quickborner Team.
The Quickborner Team was a planning and management consulting group, and concluded that the typical existing office hindered rather than encouraged work productivity. They believed that office planning should be based on patterns of communication, and that other values like appearance, status recognition, and tradition, should be relegated to a minor role. They concluded that placement of work stations should be determined by the flow of communication, which is the primary part of daily office functioning.
Prior to developing the office landscape concept in 1959, Quickborner was a materials company specializing in paper related products, furniture and equipment, and filing systems for offices. The lack of harmony between products and systems instigated their move into investigating interdependencies within the office. They quickly realized that all elements of the office were interrelated and should be dealt with concurrently, and the physical setting of the office can have an impact on work processes. By eliminating partitions, they eliminated the enclosed office, the geometric grid and the space modules. This in turn led to the development of an approach to office planning later to be called office landscaping. Issues that had to be overcome included loss of privacy (due to elimination of partitions) and noise.
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FIGURE 1.55 Example of the "open bull pen" office concept.
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FIGURE 1.55 Example of the "open bull pen" office concept.
The new approach spread throughout Europe, with the first installation in 1960 for the Ber-telsman Publishing Company in Gütersloh, West Germany. Soon, installations followed for other companies in Germany, such as Krupp, Ford, Deckel, Osram, Boehringer, Ninoflex, and Oren-stein and Kippel. In the early sixties, the concept spread into other European countries. Office landscape projects were executed in Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Britain.
During the early 1960s, while Robert Propst was developing the "Action Office" at Herman Miller Research, the Quickborner Team was also undergoing research into the corporate office in the United States. Office landscaping was first introduced into the United States in the fall of 1967, when Du Pont's Freon Products Division in Wilmington, Delaware moved into the first office landscape space outside Europe. Du Point retained the Quickborner Team to design their offices (Figure 1.56). Key to Quickborner planning is that it is based upon a systems analysis of work flow and communication—whether by conversation,written memos, or telephone. This data is then analyzed, leading to floor plans and furniture layouts that are free and non-rectilinear. People who are in frequent contact with each other are positioned adjacent, and those not needing frequent contact, are placed further apart.
The office landscape is a three-dimensional representation of the basic flow diagram. Spaces are more open than in conventional planning, and unlike in traditional offices, screens are usually four feet, six inches high rather than to the ceiling. This created acoustically problems that were offset by the use of carpet, plants, and acoustically treated ceilings. Clearly landscape planning had a strong impact in America and achieved great popularity because it was essentially efficient, flexible, open, and informal. However, because the approach did away with enclosed offices, including those of top executives, management in America often lacked enthusiasm for the new fashion.
Robert Propst, who was brought in by D.J. DePree to head Herman Miller's Research Center, believed that offices should be subservient to their occupants, and in some respects, his Action Office came to the rescue of the office landscape, mainly because the latter's approach left a number of outstanding issues such as acoustics unresolved. The Action Office was a radical new approach to office furniture. It was the world's first open plan office furniture system and was first marketed in 1964, although it was the revised Action Office system marketed in 1968 that received the greatest acclaim (Figure 1.57). The first installation of the product was in the Chicago offices of JFN Associates and had rave reviews. Since then, the system has been augmented with many modifications and additions, in response to the changing needs of the office. From the outset, Propst articulated a clear vision and coherent set of criteria for his open office design work. Judy Voss states that "like landscape planning, Action Office avoids the fixed partitions of conventional offices and substitutes movable screens." Propst's concept was a new emphasis towards ongoing change.
Computers have obviously had an enormous impact on space planning programs. Computerization both expanded the use of rectilinear, repetitious office layout patterns in the name of facilitating communications, and forced a rethinking of the design process to accommodate endless cords, cables, and electrical requirements.
In recent years, environmental issues have played an increasing role in space planning and design, and today there is a growing cadre of environmentally conscious designers and space planners that are carrying the banner. However, two firms in particular, Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK) and Herman Miller have from the beginning, taken the lead in expounding the
"Green" design approach. Buildings are known to have a tremendous impact on our environment—both during construction and through their operation. Green building is a growing network promoting the treatment of buildings as whole systems and is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 5.
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