A Seriously Fun Look At The Invention Of The Office Wall Partition
“The office is a wasteland. It saps vitality, blocks talent and frustrates accomplishment”. While this statement may still ring true in some workplaces, most offices now heave a sigh of relief, thanks to a truly creative guy named Bob Propst, in 1960.
When he went to work in post-World War II America, Bob saw that the typical workplaces looked like automobile or weapons assembly-plants, with rows upon rows of desks laid out in a grid, facing the same direction. That’s why he invented the “cubicle”, which is considered the earliest version of today’s office partition wall Singapore!
The Early Office Environment Truly Sapped Creativity
According to sociologists and labor historians, workplaces of the early 20th century had desks piled in rows, where all an individual saw was the back of his co-worker. No one had any privacy, and workers were discouraged from talking to each other.
All they had to store work papers and personal items was an in-box on top of their desk, and a drawer or two below. When Propst saw this, he was aghast.
“Here were large numbers of intelligent people working on complex tasks, and there were acres of them over their desks, trying to create”.
Creating The “Action Office”
Propst was a sculptor, designer and former college art professor. Setting his sights on creating a better workplace, he interviewed hundreds of office workers, as well as architects, bosses and even doctors and mathematicians.
He studied a workplace trend in Germany called Bürolandschaft, or “office landscape”, which encouraged working together as a group. It eliminated the grid, turned some desks to face each other, placed others side by side, and had makeshift “privacy dividers”.
Propst borrowed all the elements of Bürolandschaft, improving on it to create the “Action office”. The first design was released in 1964, and featured a freestanding piece of furniture which included bins and a few shelves on each side.
The good thing was that employers could place these units anywhere they saw fit, and reconfigure their dimensions, too! He continued refining his invention, until he finally created what we now know as the office partition wall Singapore!