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    Univers :  Office

    The desk was born late. Until the end of the 17th century, clerics used the scriptional, a small portable or free-standing writing desk, while in domestic furnishings, chests and tables were used as writing furniture. To protect them from ink stains, they were covered with a carpet of wood, which gave its name to the "desk". A writing case with a flap contains the writing materials.  

    New forms of the office in the 18th century / From the Regency onwards, the decor and furniture gradually freed themselves from the solemnity they had in the 17th century, to move in the direction of an ever-increasing search for comfort and intimacy. The offices also changed in size and décor, adapted to smaller-scale flats. Under Louis XV, for example, the "dos d'âne" desk was curved and decorated on all sides, and could therefore be placed in the middle of a room. Le bonheur-du-jour also appeared in the 1760s and seems to have been designed for women. The bonheur-du-jour also appears in the 1760s and seems to have been designed for women. This small,

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    ... tall and slender ladies' desk consists of a writing table with a tier of drawers or leaves. The other great invention is the cylindrical desk created for Louis XV by Jean-François Œben in 1760 and delivered by Jean-Henri Riesener in 1769: very easy to use, it makes it possible to conceal the papers on the table with a single gesture and was a great success until the end of the 18th century. Coming from Flanders, the scriban was imported into France in the 18th century via Bordeaux: made of mahogany or natural wood, it is a piece of furniture with two bodies, the top forming a bookcase, the bottom a chest of drawers. It is separated in its centre by a flap desk. Under Louis XVI, a new piece of writing furniture appeared, with a long future ahead of it: the secrétaire à plattèt en cabinet, which would become, under the Empire and until Louis-Philippe, the traditional secrétaire à plattèt, loved for its simple volumes and its large storage capacity. 

    From cabinetmaker's desks to functionalist desks / Art Nouveau and then Art Deco continued this tradition by turning the desk into a piece of furniture: Art Nouveau rediscovers the curves and marquetry of the Louis XV style, Art Deco highlights dark and precious essences such as mahogany, ebony or macassar, and combines the luxury of materials with a monumental geometrisation of forms inherited from the Louis XVI style. With functionalism and the advent of metal from 1927 onwards, the desk and its chair became emblematic pieces of furniture of a new spirit: pure, geometric lines, with no ornaments, the desk must above all promote working comfort. The office chair, like the typist's chair, will also be ergonomically designed: their variable height, the mobility of their castors, their reclining backrest and headrests allow the body to withstand long hours of work in a seated position or to be able to move words on the fly.

    The ministerial desk, symbol of power / Due to the cramped size of our contemporary flats, the desk is getting smaller. But the executive desk remains one of the symbols of power: it is to the greatest designers of the moment that the various presidents of the Republic will call upon to furnish the Elysée Palace or the ministries. Although these designers no longer invented new shapes, such as Œben's creation of the cylinder desk for Louis XV, they nevertheless offered unique pieces and, through the luxury of the materials, the breadth or grace of the shapes, rediscovered the spirit of the great 18th century cabinetmakers. Pierre Paulin, for example, who created unique or limited edition pieces for the Mobilier National: it is to him that we owe François Mitterrand's desk, ordered in 1983 and delivered in 1988. It is André Putman who designed the desk of the Minister of Culture in 1985: in the shape of a half-moon, it combines sycamore and bronze, while the office armchair is covered with a very elegant raw leather upholstery. 

    The office to the office: open space / With the development of the tertiary sector, the space devoted to office activities has only increased. In the 1950s, the concept of "open space" was born, an open space where offices are no longer separated and where employees can see and hear each other. With the recent increase in the number of call centres, new forms of online offices have also been created, which are compact and equipped with thin walls. The origins of open space lay in the "open-plan offices" imagined by the Schnelle brothers in the 1950s: "An open-plan workspace opens up minds." This concept was a great success in the United States, before conquering Europe in the 1980s. For example, the offices of the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company in Bloomfield, designed by Florence Knoll Basset in collaboration with Gordon Bunshaft in 1957.  The open plan, mobile office partitions, alignment of workstations and overhead lighting from false luminescent ceilings are intended to save considerable space, provide greater comfort at work, ensure better communication between employees and enable managers to have a global view of the company's activities. While the Bloomfield example is primarily inspired by the neutral and contemplative architecture of Mies van der Rohe, if in the original vision of the Schnelle brothers, the landscape offices, with their many green plants and paintings, were open to nature and art, the standard open-plan type of furnishing is now being questioned by some. It is criticised for being noisy, and for the fact that those who work can never isolate themselves, as a colleague or superior. In "Surveiller et punir" (1975), Michel Foucault already criticised this panoptic and utilitarian division imagined for the prison world by the Bentham brothers at the end of the 18th century, then applied to the world of work. 

    Company furniture / In companies, the principles of open space also apply to the counter, now known as the reception desk: no more old counters as walls separating employees from the public. Reception desks are carefully designed: in cherry, beech or chipboard, they are often light-coloured to create a soft harmony and a soothing atmosphere. Their enveloping shapes and 90° angles are intended to be welcoming. Some are equipped with bag resting shelves, others are made for a seated reception of the visitor. Likewise, the office cloakroom now hides a great solidity under false wood or bright colours that seek to give a warm aspect to this utilitarian piece of furniture. The storage spaces have also changed. Specially designed for the storage of archive boxes, modular shelving offers multiple storage combinations: the absence of crossbars allows easy access from all sides. The office cupboard designed to hold archive boxes has also changed: instead of the old metal tambour door cupboard, which was sometimes heavy to handle and often noisy, there are cupboards with sliding doors, fitted with adjustable shelves and with holders for suspension files, filing boxes or A4 size files. The conference table is similarly modular: whether it forms a U or a semi-circle, it unites or separates, as required, each table can be free-standing or attached to the whole with shared legs. 
    The office at home / In our interiors, the office is nowadays smaller. Often equipped with one or more integrated or mobile pedestals, it has become an easy-to-handle, space-saving piece of computer furniture. The pencil cup has replaced the writing desk, the letter sorter, the bleachers or the cardboard boxes. However, in addition to the use of this functional furniture, there is also a taste for solid wood writing tables, for the old-fashioned school desk and blackboard, for the small desk with pedestals, which takes up its graceful shapes again. Some designers will vary on these traditional shapes, modernising them by structure, material or colour. Marc Berthier thus creates, since 1967, the desk table and chair Ozoo 600. In fibreglass reinforced polyester, it takes the traditional shape of a school desk and will be distributed by Roche-Bobois under the name Ozoo 700. In 1984, Pierre Sala imagined the Clairefontaine notebook desk in lacquered wood, stainless steel and paper: its top is made of a refillable block of 625 sheets of paper mounted on four pencil-shaped legs. The desk-function has thus become a desk-object or object-souvenir, rich in emotional associations that cold furniture does not give.

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