Open Plan Offices Book (01-26-21)

Kaufmann-Buhler reports on the life course of open plan offices in America.  Her focus is on “the material and technical aspects of the open plan and systems furniture that manifest through its design, production, specification and use.  My research draws on information and data from dozens of different open plan of ‘systems’ furniture lines ranging from the major names in the industry such as Herman Miller, Steelcase and Knoll to the lesser known systems by companies like Eppinger, Krueger, Kimball, and Hauserman.”  As Bloomsbury shares on the book’s website (  “Originally inspired by a progressive vision of a working environment without walls or hierarchies, the open plan office has since come to be associated with some of the most dehumanizing and alienating aspects of the modern office. Author Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler traces the history and evolution of the American open plan from the brightly-colored office landscapes of the 1960s and 1970s to the monochromatic cubicles of the 1980s and 1990s, analyzing it both as a design concept promoted by architects, designers, and furniture manufacturers, and as a real work space inhabited by organizations and used by workers. The thematically structured chapters each focus on an attribute of the open plan to highlight the ideals embedded in the original design concept and the numerous technical, material, spatial, and social problems that emerged as it became a mainstream office design widely used in public and private organizations across the United States.”

Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler. 2021. Open Plan – A Design History of the American Office.  Bloomsbury Visual Arts; New York.