Check out Thomas Borowski's beautifully conditioned and practically-modified Action Office I rolltop desk. So cool. So beautiful to look at. So easy to forget that it was the precursor to the Action Office II, which accidentally sent corporate office design spiralling hellward.
For years, I've been fascinated with sociological factors that lead to the standard workplace—particularly the cubicle farms that became so prevalent by the end of the 20th century.
The cubicle, which is now in so many ways an icon of misery and corporate servitude in the United States, is an extreme perversion of Robert Propst's 1960s Action Office II concept. In fairness to Propst, he never intended for the Action Office to turn into the cubicle anymore than Mikhail Kalashnikov intended the AK-47 to become a symbol of terrorism. But sometimes that's how things work out.
By the way, if you're interested in the mid-20th century factors that created the sociological conditions necessary to rationalize the horror of things like cubicles, read The Organization Man by William H. Whyte (1957). It is an exquisitely written masterpiece.
For a more modern and more specific take on the sociology of 20th century office design, Cubed is a great and easy-to-read choice.
And probably most entertaining (and deep) of all, read Venkatesh Rao's 2009 masterpiece, The Gervais Principle, for a journey through the personality structures that coalesce around office structures situated on stacks of cubicles. Warning: this one will change you.