The Pleasures And Perils Of The Open Plan Office

They can be noisy and distracting or depressingly quiet, and frictions with co-workers are guaranteed - so why do so many of us continue to work in open-plan offices?

In the spring of 1962, a fourth-year British architectural student was tasked with sketching an office layout.

In the course of his research, Frank Duffy stumbled across a small article in a trade magazine about a new workplace design that had taken hold in Germany. Accompanying the article was a curious photograph.

"The arrangement of the desks was somehow organic," Duffy recalls. "And there were other features that were striking. There were lots of plants around the place, and a carpet."

The office in the photograph was open-plan, but it was a world away from the open-plan offices with which everyone was then familiar.

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