What can we learn from past office design trends?

The past has got a lot to teach us when it comes to space planning.

As we move into a new generation of office environments, that are designed to meet the needs of all, we can expect an eclectic mix of corporate space that takes the best from past designs to provide the most varied and effective choices.

The efficiency of the silent generation

Pre-1945, an American engineer, Frederik Taylor was designing some of the most ordered and efficient mass office spaces.

These were offices spread over a single large floor with evenly spaced rows of workstations for the mass collective of workers, with smaller offices set aside for the managers. These workspaces were designed for efficiency, filling space with bodies so that every square foot was accounted for.

Working in clusters

The 1950s saw the introduction of cluster neighbourhoods; areas compartmentalized by department. Introduced and influenced by German designers, the Schnelle brothers, these more advanced spaces were designed to translate as an ‘office landscape’, with desks grouped together to facilitate co-working and far less rigidity in structure.

Swinging on from the 60s

The mid 60s to the mid 70s saw the dawn of the action office. In this new age of communication centres and telephonics, the need for quiet arose and so cubicle culture was born.

Portable walls, angled to form workstation areas and to, essentially, protect from excess noise, these offices lent themselves to a more private style of working, which supported greater focus, along with the making of calls.

On into the 90s

Across the 80s and into the 90s, the cubicle era gained further traction, with work stations often being supported by a fourth wall to allow for extra privacy with these limited spaces filled with large desks and computers.

The birth of the ‘world wide web’ and other new technologies

As the 90s progressed so did technology. The internet and digital innovations has seriously changed the way we work, making the world smaller and allowing for far greater, and quicker, interaction in the last two decades.

New technology impacted on physical office space. Computers shrunk, walls came down, open plan became the norm and laptops enabled working styles such as hot desking to be introduced.

There is a definite simplicity to the open plan style, which is why it has maintained a place in today’s regular commercial settings.

Summarising with the best bits

There is most definitely a lot to learn from earlier trends in office design.

So if we take the best bits of each generation and allow them to influence us, this is the list of ingredients we could be looking at: efficient space planning; cluster neighbourhoods, with less rigidity; quiet spaces to allow for room to concentrate and to maintain an element of privacy; the best technology; simplicity of style and the creation of an easy flow.