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A Brief History Of The Office

The Johnson-Wax Administration Building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright 1937–39

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Buildings used to optimize bureaucratic labor costs

Architects in the late 19thcentury were seeking to monetize the price and the use of space for the reconstruction of Chicago. What is now known as the Chicago School, was the creator of the first buildings. Thanks to the marketing of the elevator by Elisha Otis, it becomes possible to build taller and more spacious buildings than before and the option to optimize revenues of bureaucratic work became available as well.

The home insurance building was one of the first structures created in 1885, in Chicago. It was then followed by the Larkin Administration Building, which was designed in 1904 by Frank Lloyd Wright, and was able to welcome more than 1800 workers. As one of the first buildings designed specifically for an organization, it combined many innovations. Some of these innovations were air conditioning, as well as walls and furniture that could absorb the noise, that was caused by the various machinery being used at the time. Frank Lloyd Wright also conceived some of the office furniture, including the rolling chair.

Order and hierarchy

In the 1930s, companies began to express their identity. Thus, in 1939, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Johnson Wax building, a building that followed the popular design of the time, resulting in employees becoming proud of their business and thus improving their productivity. The architecture also reflected the strong hierarchy or a paternalistic. Inside, the upper-level above a mezzanine was where the managers would sit, and down below, the employees. There was no outside view and the space was offset by a ceiling and artificial light.

This hierarchical aspect continued into the 60s in the United States. Administration could be found in the large halls of buildings, and executives had their individual offices with wide corridors that were much more luxurious.

During the reconstruction of the post-war architectural movement, inspired by the city of Chicago, representatives of the modern movement, such as architect and planner Le Corbusier, advocated for the development of a "functional city" in a certain purism stained utopia. "Where the order is born, is born well-being," declared Le Corbusier.

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