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How The Office Plant Was At The Centre Of A Business Revolution

The concept of natural office design is a major talking point for business leaders, property managers and corporate interior designers, in no small part because the last few years have fundamentally changed the relationship between work, workers and the office.


One way to help encourage a return to work is through the use of biophilic architecture that is mindful of the effect of working spaces on the health and well-being of employees, which subsequently translates into greater morale and greater productivity.


However, whilst office plants are obviously seen as important parts of the modern office, it is perhaps less known that they also were critical to shaping the modern office as we know it.

Prior to the 1950s, the vast majority of offices followed the system used in the United States of a bullpen and individual offices based on rank and status.


After the Second World War, Wolfgang and Eberhard Schnelle were keen to improve upon the rows of desks and strict hierarchy and create a space where businesses could live, grow and thrive, inspired not by the limitations of existing furniture and filling space but by nature.


The result of their planning was Bürolandschaft in 1958, with a conscious effort to make offices feel closer to natural settings. Potted plants were used to define the space, and provide visual barriers alongside curved screens and horizontal filing cabinets.


From a top-down perspective, Bürolandschaft looked quite random, but it was shaped around the movement of work and grouped employees based on their roles in the company rather than their rank, with room for customisation.


It quickly became very popular due to its adaptability and directly inspired Robert Propst of Herman Miller to design the Action Office, which became the first modern open-plan office, a concept that has since become ubiquitous.


Workspaces, therefore, have been inspired by nature for a long time, and as long as plants remain important parts of office furniture, will for a long time to come.


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