A few months ago I was helping my parents tidy up their loft and I grabbed a bunch of articles they’d cut out of newspapers and magazines years ago. When a friend recently moved to new open plan offices I was reminded of one of these and so have scanned it in.
It’s from the Observer magazine on 3rd November 1968 about Boots’ new open plan office building. Aside from a few amusing scenes which date it, the text doesn’t quite live up to the outrage suggested by the harrumphing headline and it focuses more on the architecture.
Skidmore Owings and Merrill from Chicago, with Yorke Rosenberg Mardall from London, designed the building and interiors (“You can’t separate the furniture from the appearance of the building”). It’s hard to get a sense of the place from these photos but I like the look of it. I’d love to know how it all worked out over the past forty years.
Click an image to see a larger, readable version at Flickr. I’ve pulled out a few of the more amusing quotes…
Dolen Davies, a chatty blonde who has been with Boots for 34 years and is now their beauty consultant, says: “I think the girls are so much more conscious of being on show, they take far more trouble with themselves. And you get to know people so quickly here.”
With my 21st century politically correct hat on, I assume Dolen is a blonde woman, rather than a blonde man, and that the “girls” are also adult women.
Ivan Mitchell, Boots’ own chief architect, sits in a private office with smoked glass walls through which he is clearly visible and says that he suffers from visual distraction. He has to turn his desk sideways to avoid seeing the mini-skirts.
[In] the directors’ wing … the rooms … branch off a wide, quiet corridor which houses secretaries. There is a private bar for morning coffees and pre-lunch drinks, the dining-room is wood-panelled and tungsten-lit; the conference room sumptuous with wild silk walls and brown leather chairs.
No open plan for the directors of course. I suspect some things don’t change.
UPDATE: A couple of links with a bit more information about the building:
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