Women’s History Month | Transforming the Office Landscape

While men were away during times of war, women took over industry jobs. Such periods recorded a massive shift in the workforce, positioning women at the forefront of not just the home, but at work as well. Post-war, businesses were ready for expansion, which involved squeezing an exploding workforce into offices unprepared to accommodate its new team. Spaces neglected future-proofing methods, and flexible, ergonomic designs were not yet available.

Some women at this time saw an opportunity for change, leading an instrumental march toward a new age of modern commercial design, majorly influencing the way we see and plan our offices today. In honour of Women’s History Month, we shine a spotlight on two powerful women who revolutionized workplace design.

Maria Bergson

Emphasizing functional and efficient workplaces, Maria Bergson is a pioneer in contract interiors. She specialized in designed offices; notably spaces for Time Magazine, Dupont, and Citibank, among others

Running across the office retrieving files, her role as a secretary allowed her to design out of need, using her own experiences as a template to plan for efficiency. Bergson devised flexible workstations providing necessities at arms reach. Recognizing a need for increased productivity, she found that creating more comfortable and inviting environments helped increase the time spent at work. Her revolutionary concepts essentially created the initial blueprints for modern office trends, breakout rooms, and flexible environments of today.

Florence Knoll Bassett

Florence Knoll Bassett is a pioneering designer and entrepreneur, remembered for re-imagining Post-war corporate offices. A gifted designer, she had a sharp eye for colour, form, and space, redefining the concept of modernity.

Design by Florence Knoll Bassett

Her designs married architecture with furniture within a space, curating the necessary elements to ensure a room radiated refinement. A revolutionary concept, Bassett, founded the Knoll Planning Unit, offering the first complete design service as a furnishing company. A genius space planner, her open, free-flowing workplace environments changed the office landscape of corporate America, ultimately impacting the way offices are still designed today.

The Knoll Showroom, Los Angeles, 1960 (Photo courtesy of The Knoll Archive)


The evolution of office design witnessed a glamorous shift, and as businesses progressed, spaces continued evolving, reflecting a transformation in workplace cultures. Today, the key to creating an amazing environment for employees combine both practicality and visually captivating solutions within the design.

ENI, Dubai, Swiss Bureau Designs (2018)
ENI, Dubai, Swiss Bureau Designs (2018)

The modern age workforce is youthfully progressive, demanding integrated, social workplaces. Open-plan settings will be here to stay with a human-centric approach as the main narrative throughout each space.

ENI, Dubai, Swiss Bureau Designs (2018)

Detailed schematic planning takes center stage with every design placing importance on the wellbeing of its end-users. An emphasis on natural light and biophilic elements is the antithesis to old cubicle farms and ensures a natural circulation of communication and engagement between teams.

Mojeh, Dubai, Swiss Bureau Designs (2017)
Mojeh, Dubai, Swiss Bureau Designs (2017)

As the office landscape continues to evolve into more technologically advanced, sustainable environments, it’s important to remember that people remain at the heart of design. These two women recognized the need to improve the daily lives of those they worked with, spurring the importance of creating more comfortable and flexible environments. These key factors allowed fluidity within a space, making room for efficiency and productivity in a beautifully curated way.

For more inspiring women in design, check out Swiss Bureau’s compilation of quotes from some of our favorite women in history here!