Open plan

Open plan

Open plan is a generic term used in architectural and interior design for any floor plan which makes use of large, open spaces and minimizes the use of small, enclosed rooms such as private offices. The term can also refer to landscaping of housing estates, business parks, etc, in which there are no defined property boundaries such as hedges, fences or walls.


Open plan offices have existed for a long time. However, prior to the 1950s, these mostly consisted of large regular rows of desks or benches where clerks, typists, or technicians performed repetitive tasks. Such designs were rooted in the work of industrial engineers or efficiency experts such as Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford. In the 1950s, a German team named Quickborner developed office landscape which used conventional furniture, curved screens, large potted plants, and organic geometry to create work groups on large, open floors. Office landscape was quickly supplanted by office furniture companies which developed cubicles based on panel-hung or systems furniture. Many different terms (mostly derisive) have been used over time for offices using large arrays of open cubicles including sea of cubicles and cube farms. Frank Lloyd Wright was the first architect to use the 'open plan' design in houses.

Current state

Many different companies are experimenting with designs which provide a mix of cubicles, open workstations, private offices, and group workstations. In some cases, these are not assigned to one particular individual, but are available to any employee of the company on either a reservable or "drop-in" (first come, first served) basis. Terms for this strategy include office hotelling and alternative officing.


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