Digital history & historiography

Perspectives on Uses and Users in the History of Office Buildings

20 November 2023 to 21 November 2023

Entrance Hall of the Governmental Administrative Centre, Brussels, 1972

Entrance Hall of the Governmental Administrative Centre, Brussels, 1972

Workshop on the history of office building use(rs) in the framework of the BUREU research project.

On 20 and 21 November 2023, the BUREU team of C²DH and KU Leuven will host an international workshop on the history of office building use(rs). All practical information, including the programme, can be found below.

Everyone is welcome to attend the workshop, but please inform us by sending an email to by 15 November the latest.

20-21 November 2023

Maison Schuman (21 Place Sainte Cunégonde, L-1367 Luxembourg)


Monday, 20 November 2023


Welcome by Andreas Fickers (C²DH) and Martin Kohlrausch (Leuven); Introduction to the workshop theme and the ongoing research on office buildings at C²DH by Jens van de Maele (C²DH)

Negotiating the Vertical Bias of Capitalism: Using Information and Offices in Early 20th Century America
Keynote by Craig Robertson (Associate Professor of Media Studies at Northeastern University, Boston, and author of the award-winning 2021 monograph The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information)
Session 1: Managerial Cultures (I) (Chair: Rika Devos, Brussels)
  The European Commission’s Office Space Between 1950s and 1960s: Building a European “Materialized Imaginary”
Marco Ninno (Leuven)
  When Good Office Designs Go Bad: Labor Process Theory, the Scanlon Plan, and the Evolution of Herman Miller’s Action Office
Petra Seitz (London)
Coffee break

Session 2: Environmental and Psychological Aspects of Office Work (Chair: Fredie Floré, Leuven)
  Managing Total Environments: Light, Sound and Focus in the Office, ca. 1970
Joeri Bruyninckx (Maastricht)
  Permanent Spring? Bodily Negotiations of Climate Control in Tokyo Office Spaces
Tatsuja Mitsuda (Tokyo)
  Surviving the Office: Workplace Design, Activism and the Health of Women Workers in Twentieth-Century Britain
Amy Thomas (Delft)
19.00 Dinner at Brasserie Mansfeld (3 Rue de la Tour Jacob, 1831 Luxembourg)

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

Session 3: Managerial Cultures (II) (Chair: Stephanie Fransis, C²DH)
  User Requests for Governmental Offices During the Portuguese Estado Novo, 1948-74
Ana Mehnert Pascoal (Lisbon)
  The Paradoxes of Work Cultures in Modern Office Buildings in the Philippines
Philip Michael Paje (Manila)
  From Taylorist to Dynamic Office Organization: Architectural Design Practice Learning from Office Management Methods. Some Cases From (Postwar) West Germany
Gernot Weckherlin (Dessau)
Coffee break

Session 4: Computers and Office Technologies After the 1960s (Chair: Andreas Fickers, C²DH)
  The Computerized Office: Planning, Office Work and Visions for Technology, 1980-2000
Christiane Berth (Graz)
  Measuring, Evaluating and Configuring: The Debate About Screen Work in West Germany From 1974 to 1996
Bernd Holtwick (Dortmund)

Concluding remarks by Rika Devos, Andreas Fickers, Fredie Floré and Martin Kohlrausch (Chair: Jens van de Maele)
Afternoon Voluntary excursion to the EU office buildings in Luxembourg (details to be announced)

Practical information for presenters

  • The length of individual presentations should be around 15 minutes.
  • Presenters are kindly requested to send a written version of their presentation to (5000 to 7000 words) by 13 November. Papers will be circulated among all participants prior to the event, to enable a fruitful discussion.
  • A selection of papers will be published in a theme issue of a peer-reviewed journal (with the workshop organisers as guest editors).


Organisation and funding

The workshop is organised by the members of the BUREU research project, which investigates the history of EU office buildings in Brussels and Luxembourg. The team unites researchers from Luxembourg and Flanders:

University of Luxembourg / Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH): Prof. dr. Andreas Fickers, Stephanie Fransis, dr. Jens van de Maele, Sofia Magalhaes

KU Leuven / Research group Modernity and Society, 1800 – 2000: Prof. dr. Martin Kohlrausch, Marco Ninno

The BUREU project and the workshop are funded by the CORE International programme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), in association with the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO).

For general questions about the workshop, please write to Presenters with questions regarding their hotel and flight bookings should write to