Girard in his studio working on the Environmental Enrichment Panels, 1972. Photograph by Charles Eames.

In 1971, Alexander Girard created the Environmental Enrichment Panel series — 40 silkscreen graphics to accompany the Herman Miller Action Office 2 system, which was designed in 1968 as a modern solution to office interiors. Robert Propst, head of the Herman Miller Research Corporation, criticized offices for their “rigidity, lack of delegation and pyramidal decision making that…smothered creativity and innovation.” The AO2 was built with change and flexibility in mind and allowed employees to customize their personal spaces to fit their needs, even down to the lighting. Surfaces were made neutral to aid in the system’s adaptability and Girard created decorative canvas hangings specifically designed for the AO2 components.

Environmental Enrichment Panels

Images reproduced from Alexander Girard Design for Herman Miller by Piña, 1998.

Alexander Girard 1907–1993

Born in 1907 in New York to an American mother and French-Italian father, Alexander Girard and his family soon moved to Italy where he was raised in a Florentine villa surrounded by art and antiques. As a boy he filled notebooks with creative design sketches displaying an early attention to detail and interest in other cultures even imaging his own country with regional flags and unique symbolism. Inspiration from international folk art became a staple of his artistic legacy as he amassed thousands of artifacts from around the world. Girard studied architecture in Rome, London and New York as his influential and celebrated career began.

Girard designed and directed the groundbreaking show For Modern Living at the Detroit Institute of Fine Arts in 1949, a predecessor to the Good Design shows hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York which he eventually participated in and juried. While living in Michigan in 1952, he was hired by friend and collaborator Charles Eames at Herman Miller eventually establishing the company’s textile division as Director of Design until 1973. In addition to his collections of fabric and wallpaper, his “Environment Enrichment Panels” promoted humanization of the corporate workplace and in 1967 he released the “Girard Group” collection of furniture.

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