Cubicles in the open space – minimal working space

When Robert Propst and Herman Miller released the “Action Office 1” in 1968, it was meant to be a customizable environment that offered the flexibility and openness of the “Bürolandschaft” with more privacy and personalization for employees. In another words, to free the workers.

Action Office System, Jack Kelley & Robert Probst, Herman Miller, 1968

“The Action Office wasn’t conceived to cram a lot of people into little space,” says Joe Schwartz, Herman Miller’s former marketing chief, “It was driven that way by economics.”

The search for flexibility of the limits has ended up in limiting the flexibility

Flexibility has a price and the corporate America was not interested in offering their employees a holistic working environment. The principle of the Action Office taken to its absolute dystopian limits, resulted in the birth of the “Cubicle Farm”, a system pushed to its end with a single goal: to produce more while being profitable.

“The Cubicle Farm is a lesson in history that further proves that any good idea can be corrupted by anyone with more interest in economy, or efficiency, than in human resources. It showed that vast, corporate companies had little interest in creating autonomous environments for staff. Instead, Action Office II and its many copies were used to cram as many people into as small a space, for as cheaply as possible, as quickly as possible.”

Plan of a Cubicle farm

The cubicle allows the idea of absolute control in the workspace, the destruction of singularities, the dehumanizing of the workers for the greater purpose of the production. The illusion of freedom provided by the open space is simply overruled by the human-farming.

How long can such a totalitarian system hold before the singularities awake to form a revolution?

“We thought it was extremely flexible in the plan view, but we had never considered the vertical elevation.” By then, it was too late to remedy the problem. In fact, to let in any light and air, he added, “you’d have to go in with a chainsaw and cut off the tops of the panels.” – Douglas Ball

The cubicle is a cell, the imprisonment of the multitude. To escape from it and restore the fight for the liberation of humanity, we need to challenge the free plan and the society.