Workplace Redesign: Spaces of Work and the Transformation of Industrial Modernity in a Globalizing World

Workplace Redesign: Spaces of Work and the Transformation of Industrial Modernity in a Globalizing World

Masaryk Institute and Archive, Czech Academy of Sciences
Academy of Sciences of Czech Republic
Czech Republic
Vom - Bis
01.12.2017 - 02.12.2017
Zdeněk Nebřenský

In recent years, historians have called attention to the significance that space has had in labour history and the history of work. Space is more than a geographic entity in which physical objects, such as houses, farms, factories, and office buildings, are located. In a historical perspective, space also entails the specific places where people worked and spent much of their time. It was on the fields, in workshops, and on shop floors that labour relations were formed, social inequalities and power structures emerged, and labour and social conflicts played out. Some people had to fight for spaces of work, whereas others had them forced upon them; some tried to change such spaces to meet their expectations, whereas others conformed to them; some came to identify with these spaces, whereas other tried to avoid them. One thing is for certain, however: in modern industrial society it is nearly impossible to ignore spaces of work.

Historians also agree that experts played a key role in creating places for work because they possessed the necessary knowledge. Their proposals, projects, and plans defined spaces of work, delimited their boundaries, and defined their inner order. Whereas until the late nineteenth century, it was mainly construction managers and engineers who influenced the form and appearance of places of work, immediately before World War I academically trained architects began to demand the liberation of work buildings from the yoke of historicism and technicist visions. This paradigm shift is embodied in the buildings of architects such as Walter Gropius, Adolf Meyer, and Albert Kahn, whose careers culminated in the interwar period. The work of these architects corresponded with new scientific management theories such as Taylorism and Fordism, which placed great emphasis on spatial organization. The principles of modern architecture and the new economy of space soon expanded beyond the realm of industrial buildings.

Although the 1920s and 1930s are considered to be a turning point in history that opened up a new era of industrial modernity, this workshop attempts to focus more on historical continuity in this period. The interwar period is understood not just as the start of a new era, but also as a time when long-term trends culminated. Thus, the goal of the workshop is not only to analyse the extent to which modern architecture contributed to transforming spaces of work, but it also attempts to examine development models, patterns, and trajectories that appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century, some of which were eventually applied in practice. The workshop seeks to gather papers that examine the various places of work that coexisted over the course of a one-hundred-year span of time. Whether the focus is on farms, households, artisan workshops, manufactories, factories, or offices, the central question is how can these spaces be studied historically. What sources and which analytical tools can make these spaces accessible to historians? How can their transformations be captured? This workshop aims to spark discussion about the spatial aspects of work and look at labour history through the lens of space.


Friday, December 1
Czech Academy of Sciences, Na Florenci 3, Prague

14:00 Welcome by the Organizers

14:15 Keynote Lecture

Karsten Uhl (Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg – Darmstadt
University of Technology)
Spaces of Work – The Making of the Modern Factory

16:15 Coffee Break

16:30-18:30 Panel I: Spaces of Work in the 19th century Central Europe
Chair: Timo Luks (Justus-Liebig-University Giessen)

Thomas Schuetz (University of Stuttgart)
The Disappearance of Linen-Weavers and Spinners in the Kingdom of Wüttemberg

Jakub Raška (Charles University in Prague)
Typographers’ Workplace and Typographers’ Movement in the Habsburg Empire

Comments: Lars Bluma (Deutsches Bergbau Museum, Bochum)

Saturday, December 2
Czech Academy of Sciences, Na Florenci 3, Prague

9:00 – 9:30 Remarks on the Organization and Concept of the Workshop

9:30 – 11:30 Panel II: Spaces of Work in a Globalizing World
Chair: Karsten Uhl (Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg – Darmstadt University of Technology)

Regina Blaszczyk (University of Leeds)
Fashioning Commercial Modernity: The Work Experience of American Merchandisers in Europe, 1850-1940

Tryfonas Lemontzoglou (University of Siena)
People’s Access to Land, Stuck in Agriculture and Literacy Development: Evidence from the Modern Greek state, 1860 - 1880

Marcin Jarząbek (Jagiellonian University in Cracow)
Space and Order. Organization of Space and Work on the Railway in Galicia and in the Polish Kingdom in Russia, 1848 – 1914

Comments: Timo Luks (Justus-Liebig-University Giessen)

11:30 – 13:30 Lunch Break

13:30 – 15:30 Panel III: Workplace Redesign in the Age of Extremes
Chair: Lars Bluma (Deutsches Bergbau Museum, Bochum)

Martin Jemelka (Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague)
To Work and To Prayer. Factory as a Worship Space in Bohemian Lands, 1850 – 1950

Anna G. Piotrowska (Jagiellonian University in Cracow)
Music Making in the Concentration Camps: Understanding of the Spaces of Works – Understanding of Work

Mrinmoy Majumder (GOA Institute of Management)
The Proletariat Cyborg: IT Sector and Work Environment in Contemporary India

Comments: Karsten Uhl (Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg – Darmstadt University of Technology)

15:30 Coffee Break

15:35 – 16:00 Conclusions


Zdeněk Nebřenský

Gabčíkova 2362/10


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