If You Hate Your Cubicle, You Should Blame Medieval Monks
Love it or hate it, some sort of open-plan office is likely the place you get most of your work done. And while academics and architects debate the virtues of design and its effect on productivity, the larger question of how we got here remains unanswered. Surely at some point in history, someone decided that having a dedicated workspace was a good thing. And at another time, someone else suggested that work should be done in one great room, unencumbered by walls or other boundaries.
ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE PERIODS: SECLUDED SPACES TO MAXIMIZE FOCUS
History tells us that as far back as ancient Rome, the Tabularium was used to house public records and also may have served as an office building for workers. But medieval monks may have been the first to use cubicles–or a scriptorium, as it was called–as they worked on manuscripts. These writing rooms were also used by lay scribes and illuminators.
Botticelli’s painting of St. Augustine in his cell depicts a small three-walled alcove with a curtain, further suggesting that such work in Renaissance times was done in secluded spaces to maximize focus. Coincidentally, this painting hangs in the Uffizi Gallery, which was originally the central administrative building of the Medici empire.
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