Glass wall panels are infusing light to all facets of the interior environment. From downtown Chicago lofts to refurbished owner-tenant office and retail spaces, glass wall panels are clearly the hottest interior wall solution on the market today.
Demountable glass wall panels are especially popular in commercial settings. Gone are the days for workers to “strive for the window line”. Glass wall panels in offices are an equalizing feature that break down the walls of separation. As companies undergo the dramatic shift toward transparency and reduced hierarchal structures, glass wall panels become the physical testament to this new tenet.
20th century standardized office layouts are derived from office paradigms formulated over many decades, beginning during the industrial revolution. In the United States Taylorist open plan principles of splitting tasks and repetitive acts into defined work-pool arrangements became the widely accepted model for many years. Factory floors and skyscraper office spaces in New York and Chicago were solely profit-driven with open pools of purpose-designed environments segmenting workers by task.
The advent of air conditioning and HVAC provided a means to control temperatures without ventilation from doors and windows. Drop ceilings housed fluorescent lighting reducing the need for natural light. Offices on the building parameter primarily allocated to management enjoyed natural views and lighting through windows. Gypsum board office walls blocked the natural light from interior offices and work areas. Luxurious naturally lit offices were reserved for executives in upper level suites. Administrative and clerical workers were packed into rows of desks and equipment and seemed more a part of the corporate machine than people with intrinsic value.
Through this monetization of acres upon acres of offices in London, Chicago and New York high rise buildings, thousands of workers filled these rows of dimly lit spaces and questionable air quality. Even our beloved environmental design architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, missed the boat when designing the Larkin Building in 1904. His attention to detail down to the furniture was missed when he installed small windows above eye level.
In 1930s -1950s as interpersonal relations and employee motivation concepts developed, workers were finally being recognized as people and not just cogs in the machine. New models such as Bürolandschaft with open floor plans were intended to increase communication and address issues of hierarchy. Devising spatial organization of office wall partitions in the Bürolandschaft model gave way to the popular Herman Miller Action 1 office furniture designed by George Nelson and Robert Probst. A specific type of layout for particular office tasks was devised and Robert Probst then designed Herman Miller’s Action2 office furniture line introducing upholstered office wall partitions and the 1970s cubicle farms were born.
From Cubicle Farms to Glass Wall Panels
As human-designed environmental practices evolve and environmental design comes of age we’re slowing removing the upholstered cubicles. Collaborative spaces and hot-desking are becoming more popular in many corporate office settings. Open space planning for increased communication and employee equality continue to offer the greatest use of square footage in office design which always makes the number crunchers happy. Ideas for office sustainability and worker well being are addressed through improved air quality, glass wall panels offering natural lighting, and views of the outdoors. Studies show workers in these open space office with natural views and lighting are healthier and happier resulting in reduced absenteeism.
Yet studies continue to show that people are less productive in open office settings that do not offer some type of separation or privacy. Social though people are, we need set physical boundaries to feel most comfortable. Today the solution to offering privacy while continuing to maintain transparency and daylighting benefits is to build out the office parameter and open floor with demountable glass office panels. Creating private work spaces with glass wall partitions or rooms of floor to ceiling glass wall panels offer separation, sound reduction, private conversation and improved office culture. Workers are happy, stakeholders are happy and there’s no need for cut-throat competition for that once coveted corner office.
Interested in the history of office design?
Following are quality websites and articles used as reference that discuss:
- Office design paradigms
- Leading concepts in office spatial organization
- Photos of historical office concepts and furnishings