Action Office, or, Another Kind of ‘Architecture Without Architects’


  • Phillip Denny Harvard University



When Robert Propst set out to transform the white-collar office, he began with a research protocol: observe, notate, quantify, represent. This process, based equally on the production of data and the use of representation to turn that data into information, led to Action Office, a system that aimed to transform every action and surface of the office environment into a data-rich cybernetic loop. For Propst, the key to turning the office into a space that produced information, rather than merely managed it, was display; as he wrote, ‘Action Office 2 provides no place for paper to hide or die – all paper material is displayed. You can see it, it is all signalled or marked and it will feed back a strong purge signal when it becomes overabundant.’ Propst’s Action Office system mobilised display to produce an information environment that cuts out noisy signals to frame clear communication.

Author Biography

Phillip Denny, Harvard University

Phillip Denny is a PhD student at Harvard University. His research focuses on prefabricated architecture in the twentieth century. His writing has most recently appeared in Harvard Design Magazine, Volume, Metropolis, The New York Times, CLOG, and PLAT. He edited The Art of Joining: Designing the Universal Connector (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2019), an anthology of research on architect Konrad Wachsmann. Phillip contributed to the catalogue for Architecture Itself and Other Postmodernist Myths, curated by Sylvia Lavin at the CCA. In 2019, he received a Graham Foundation grant to support his work on an English-language translation of Nicolas Schöffer’s 1969 urban manifesto La ville cybernétique.


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