Since the dawn of the white-collar age, office designs have cycled through competing demands: openness versus privacy, interaction versus autonomy. Here's a brief history of how seating arrangements have reflected our changing attitudes toward work.
The virtual office ''sounded good in theory, but ultimately violated human tenets,'' said Lee Clow, the company's chairman. He added, ''People need a sense of place and belonging.'' The idea behind the virtual office was that telecommuting would allow people to work anywhere, anytime, and that they would use the outgrown building only for teamwork. As it turned out, most staff members needed or wanted to work under the same roof.
Current and former employees paint a picture of harried workers fighting over too-few desks, defiantly displaying family photos and trying to stake out personal space in a place planned like a club.