The term “office landscape” most frequently refers to an interior design concept focused on creating aesthetically pleasing internal office arrangements for corporations. In practice, office landscape involves furniture and desk placement, particularly in open-plan office settings. It often also involves the selection and placement of plants, the creative use of natural light, and the use of artwork to create ambiance. Sometimes, the term is also applied to outdoor landscape architecture, which focuses on creating appealing and sustainable outdoor gardens, parks, and green spaces around office buildings.
Office landscape was first introduced as a way to improve the atmosphere of work spaces by a team of German designers shortly after the Second World War. Traditionally, offices in the European style, which for a time also included offices in most of the United States and Canada, were made up of two essential parts: closed offices for executives and managers, and rows and rows of work desks for regular laborers. The concept, called bürolandschaft in the original German, experimented with introducing new designs of more open and approachable office space layout.
Much of the early office landscaping involved moving the majority of staff into common areas. Desks were arranged not in uniform rows, but in a more free-flowing system of clusters and sections. The designers pioneered the use of panel-hung systems to create privacy and divide sections without blocking the light or closing people off the way walls would. Many design teams came to believe that an office landscape layout promoted communication, collaboration, and teamwork among employees.
The original bürolandschaft concepts still permeate the practice today. Many office-space planning teams also look for ways to make office layouts aesthetic, however, which was not a primary motivation early on. Elements like specially-designed lighting, sleek or modern furniture, and seamless accessibility to technology are among the top goals of 21st century corporate interior design efforts.
Increasingly, the term is also being used by landscape architects to describe the physical landscaping of corporate grounds. Landscape architects work designing the exterior appearances of many corporate office parks and executive campuses. They choose plants, create walking paths or recreation areas, and design aesthetic elements like fountains or rock walls on the land immediately surrounding an office building.
Interior landscape designers may also call themselves office landscape designers from time to time. The practice of interior landscape design is devoted to the strategic placement and appeal of plants and greenery indoors. Decorative trees in building lobbies, for instance, or potted plants and shrubs in corporate hallways, are usually the handiwork of interior landscape designers.