Abstract: Designing for Change: New Management Theory and the Open Plan Office

Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler


In the late 1960s, the American architecture and design community began buzzing about a new kind of office design that would transform the physical arrangement of offices for decades to come. Called "the open plan," this new office design concept was heralded by architects and designers as the spatial counterpart to the new ideas about management and work circulating at the time, particularly: a rejection of hierarchy and bureaucracy; an increasing emphasis on giving workers greater autonomy; and a belief that change was the new constant in American business. Drawing on the language and ideas of Douglas McGregor and Peter Drucker, architects and designers argued that the open plan would not only support this new office culture; it would help create it.