OfficeUS Manual is a guide to the American architectural workplace as documented through the everyday protocols, policies and procedures of architectural offices over the past 100 years. Structured like an employee manual, Pentagram’s design for the book compiles guidelines for everything from job listings, timesheets and estimates, to workstations and reception areas, to office hours and benefits. As entertaining as it is critically serious, the book offers insight into how office life at architecture firms has changed over the past century―and how much it has remained the same.
The book is the third publication in the OfficeUS series (from Lars Müller Publishers), which looks at the global influence of U.S. architectural practices and originated in the OfficeUS installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014. Pentagram designed the previous titles, OfficeUS Agenda (2014) and OfficeUS Atlas (2015), building on the identity and graphics for the original exhibition. OfficeUS was initiated by the Storefront for Art and Architecture, which served as the commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion at the Biennale.
OfficeUS Manual collects historical material from large firms and small studios, as well as reflections by more than 50 architects, artists, and writers considering professional architecture practices today. As with previous OfficeUS titles, the team worked with the editors to devise a strong graphic system that would help organize the large amount of content. The deadpan, tongue-in-cheek presentation sets off the banal tone of the assembled documents, and highlights how funny and interesting the subject is.
The book is loosely sectioned into different topics―Policies, Operations, Environments, Benefits, and so on. For easy comparison, each spread juxtaposes past and present procedures across its pages. Historical content is presented on the left side, with text set in Times Roman, and contemporary guidelines appears on the right, set in Arial. Corresponding dates are marked on a timeline that runs along the book’s fore edge.
Portfolios of historical images and found materials are presented on blue pages, along with collections of organizational charts, hierarchies of companies, floorplans and symbols of the profession that were redrawn by the Pentagram team. Running throughout the book as a kind of visual link are stills of office life from The Architects, a film by artist Amie Siegel originally commissioned for OfficeUS.