P. ​​Atkinson, Room with a VDU: The Development of the ‘Glass House’in the Corporate Workplace. Interiors, 5 (1): 2014: 89-115.




This article argues that the presentation of early computer technology and its reception by the public had a causal effect on the design of computer products. It is also argued that the desire to show computer s in operation led to the emergence and proliferation of the ‘glass house’, a particular element of the commercial interior landscape of the 1960s and 1970s. These glass - walled secure area s, built to house mainframe computer installations, appeared in order to meet the conflicting requirements of environmental stability, co ntrolled access and crucially, the conspicuous display of corporate status.


Although the phenomenon of the glass house disappeared as the computers they housed developed from large, centralised systems into distributed networks of stand - alone computers , this article posits that the widespread adoption of the glass house not only had a profound effect on the visual design of computers themselves but also led to the growth of a range of subsidiary industries, as well as having a lasting impact on the perception and reception of computers in the workplace and attitudes towards the specialist staff involved in their maintenance.


A text only version of this article can be downloaded from the SHURA website.
The full article can be accessed or purchased from the Taylor & Francis website.

Room with a VDU