Contract - March 2010 - (Page 52)

essay: from the past June 1970 changes in workplaces re ect changes in task structure Robert Propst, president, Herman Miller Research Corporation, Ann Arbor, Mich., explores many of the psychological and physiological considerations of workplace functions and how they affect workplace design ndoubtedly one of the most thorough and original thinkers about the of ce and furnishing systems, Robert Propst, president of Herman Miller Research Corp., answers questions relating to desk design put to him by Contract’s editors. The reader will recognize much of the philosophy and research conducted by Propst in his book The Of ce: A Facility Based on Change, which delved into man’s relationship with people and furnishings that had never been examined so minutely and incisively before. Action Of ce II was the outgrowth of that research. Contract’s editors, while recognizing this irrevocable relationship, have attempted to probe beyond it in this question and answer article. Editor: You generally avoid the use of the word U symbol” desk to the user? To the visitor? What are the exact psychological or behavioral forces at work on both the visitor and user with the traditional desk? Propst: We are very interested in status and “desk,” preferring “work station” instead. Is there a difference between the two? How would you de ne each of them? certainly desks have become part of this meaning. The dif culty we see with traditional status symbols is their misdirected emphasis and, in many cases, their obsolete connotation in contemporary organizational management. Certainly, people need strong identi cation. “What is my authority” is one of the things desks tend to express. However, other critical new statements are emerging with greater consequences. An of ce should tell us more: who I am; what kind of work I do; what is its variety and diversity. The problem is to retain a tangible grip on a complex world and to make this all eloquently expressive to others. The traditional status symbols are not only simplistic, but also they are a communication hazard in a world requiring clearer, and at the same time, more complex expression. Editor: You advocate the open plan—a modi ed A large desk provides a fortress feeling of security. Propst: The word “desk” has been used so long of ce landscape. Yet, most of ces are still enclosed cubicles. Can Action Of ce I function effectively for the user within this framework of four walls, a door, and (hopefully) windows? If so, how? Propst: Action Of ce II can function effectively that it suffers meaning fatigue. For most people it simply conjures up in their minds a stylized image with little mobility, freshness, or relevance to their actual work life. We are, in fact, not very decisive about using furniture to do work. Using the term station as a place to do of ce work seems like a useful direction. Editor: Doesn’t the traditional desk, which can vary in size, material, and shape, help establish rank or status? How important is a “status within four walls, a door, and windows. This may, in fact, be what some of ce users still need. However, this is part of a rapidly declining professional population, who are aside from the exceedingly dynamic world of typical organizational and communication structures. And, unless they can stand excessive delay and cost in expressing of ce facilities, they are bound to be frustrated with unresponsive facilities. We are a change-oriented society, and we expect our change desires to be accommodated. But I would reemphasize that it is a communication Robert Propst, President, Herman Miller Research Corporation, 1968–1980 deprivation that is the most compelling reason for leaving overly containerized of ce concepts. Editor: The of ce and methods of working are changing. How does this affect the desk or work station and its con gurations? Propst: Of ce work has become more complex, tasks overlap each other in time, and we are 52 contract march 2010

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - March 2010

Contract 3/10
Editor’s Note
Essays from the Past:
The Contract Design Dilemma (May 1962)
Space Planning Symposium (July 1963)
Changes in Workplaces Reflect Changes in Task Structure (June 1970)
Women Need Feminine Desks (June 1970)
Name “Interior Designer” Is a Misnomer Because of Broader Duties (August 1970)
Research Reveals Proper Height, Width, Depth of Furniture, from Office Chairs to Library Tables (September 1970)
Astounding Technology Portends Drastic Office Changes in the ’80s (January 1980)
Is the Office Really Necessary? (January 1989)
If You Cut Your Fee, Do You Bleed? (June 1990)
Design: Retrospective
Essays on the Future:
More Happiness, Less Stuff: By Ray C. Anderson
The Social Aspect of Social Responsibility: By John Cary
Leading in the Global Market: By Ross Donaldson
Technology Trends: By Cathryn Barrett
Inadmissible Evidence: By Michael Berens
Designers Rate: Eight Designers Pick Their Favorite Three Commercial Interiors Products of the Last 50 Years
Ad Index

Contract - March 2010