Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler, Purdue University

The Open Plan Office in the Windy City


The Open Plan Office in the Windy City

In the late 1960s, the open plan office concept challenged conventional office planning at the time by radically reimagining the office as a space that could reduce hierarchy, increase communication, and support organizational change. I argue that the city of Chicago was a vital nexus of activity in the earliest promotion and experimentation of the open plan office concept. Further, as an important hub for the contract furniture industry, Chicago helped to establish the open plan and systems furniture as a space standard throughout the United States through the latter part of the 20th century.

The Chicago: City of Commerce and Design, 1890-1990 Seminar is part of Art Design Chicago, an exploration of Chicago’s art and design legacy, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.