Meet Amy Auscherman: MillerKnoll’s Director of Archives and Corporate Campus Editor


Kimberly Phillips


Docomomo US


Newsletter, Annual Theme
Image details

Amy Auscherman’s work spans conservation and collections management, archival product development, and communications – she’s authored a couple of books, digitized the collection of the Miller House & Garden, and currently runs the corporate archives of MillerKnoll brands (there are 15 of them, now, including Herman Miller, Knoll, and Design Within Reach). We’re thrilled to welcome her as the guest editor of July’s Special Edition Newsletter and recently took the opportunity to chat with her about cubicles and corporate campuses.


What's your favorite corporate campus? 

This is a very biased answer, but I love MillerKnoll’s (formerly Herman Miller) Mainsite in Zeeland, Michigan. The campus includes a building designed by George Nelson and Gordon Chadwick that was later incorporated into a master plan designed and executed by A. Quincy Jones through the late 1970s. An 800 foot building connector that is now lovingly referred to as “The Spine” creates a walkway between manufacturing, materials handling, and office spaces. Walking down The Spine is a favorite post-lunch activity, especially in the winter time. There is also a lot of outdoor green space to fully enjoy lunch and walks outside during Michigan summer.


MillerKnoll’s corporate campus buildings are spread across West Michigan. As mentioned, there is Mainsite in Zeeland, which was the original corporate headquarters. There is also the GreenHouse in Holland, Michigan, which was designed by William McDonogh + Partners and opened in 1995. It is the most beautiful manufacturing space I’ve ever been in and was selected by the US Green Building Council as a pilot for the development of LEED certification.

I work out of our Midwest Distribution Center in Holland, designed by Van Dyke Verburg Architects in 1988. It feels poetic to house our corporate archives in a space where product is also getting loaded onto trucks to make its way to our customers. We are also working on creating an archive collection space in MillerKnoll’s current corporate headquarters building called the Design Yard, designed by MSR Design and completed in 1989.

Ok, next question...what's your ultimate corporate campus field trip?

Everyone should make their way to Columbus, Indiana, and treat themselves to a walk around Kevin Roche’s headquarters for Cummins Engine Company.

How were the corporate design programs at Herman Miller and Knoll established? How do their legacies continue today as MillerKnoll?

Design is an integral part of the business at Herman Miller and Knoll. This ethos was established and fostered in the early days by Florence Knoll, George Nelson and the Eames Office. At both companies, design leadership ensured that every touchpoint was considered in the customer’s experience. 

That included creating marketing literature and interiors that reflected the same quality and materiality as the products themselves. Today, this sensibility and way of doing things is inherent to every brand that is part of the MillerKnoll collective.

Do you have any images in the archives of projects by Florence Knoll that demonstrate her total design approach to interiors?

The interiors of Connecticut General Life Insurance Company were done by the Knoll Planning Unit and led by Florence in collaboration with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. It was one of their largest and now best known projects.

 I am partial to one of Florence’s earliest projects with the Planning Unit for the Rockefeller family offices at Rockefeller Center. Shu (as she was affectionately known by her colleagues) created a beautiful L-shaped desk for Nelson’s office and referred to the interiors as “low key.” Rockefeller had one bit of input for the design: he wanted to keep an existing inkwell because he liked his pen. Shu, however, was not fond of the plastic inkwell, so she called up her friend Isamu Noguchi to create a sculptural cover for it. It was carved out of English oak and “everyone was happy with this unique piece.” I wonder where it is now!


Cubicles or open plan? 

Cubicles!!! Specifically Action Office 2, the panel based system designed by Robert Propst and launched by Herman Miller in 1968. It is still a product Herman Miller sells today and it remains, in my opinion, the best system to create private and semi-private workstations in a floorplate. 

Any deep cuts (seating or office system-wise) that hold a special place in your heart?

I have an Equa Chair in my home office and love it. It was designed by Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf for Herman Miller and released in 1984. It was a precursor to the Aeron, but I personally prefer it to Don and Bill’s more famous chair.

With more people working from home or doing hybrid work, what is your take on the future of corporate campus? Have you seen any good examples of adaptive reuse?

During the pandemic, I was struck by a fashion campaign from the designer Martine Rose. She superimposed models into Herman Miller Action Office 2 environments. I actually tweeted (X’d?!) about it and tried my hand at trend forecasting what I then called #officecore. The trend has emerged even more so now with other cultural critics calling it “Corporate Fetish.” To me, this signals that there is still interest in the office as a place to do work, but also to be seen and to socialize. I think there is a place for the corporate campus still in our future, but perhaps aspects of these large, sprawling buildings can evolve to include amenities for workers like onsite childcare. I am an Eero Saarinen fan, so I was encouraged when the Bell Labs building was developed into Bell Works. Taking these large spaces and turning them into mixed use for the public is the only way forward.


What makes you uniquely suited for this editor role? Anything readers might look forward to?

In my work, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the development of offices and the furniture that goes inside of them. Herman Miller and Knoll were at the forefront of creating these spaces in partnership with architects and continue to shape how people work today. Now I look forward to seeing how architects and designers of today evolve what the office is and how it can better function for workers and the communities they exist within.


About Amy Auscherman

Amy Auscherman is the Director of Archives and Brand Heritage at MillerKnoll, where she is responsible for leading the corporate archives of MillerKnoll brands. Her work spans conservation and collections management, archival product development, and communications, including internal and external exhibitions and publications. Previously, Auscherman was Archives Assistant at the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project “Documenting Modern Living: Digitizing the Miller House and Garden Collection.” She holds a Master of Library Science and bachelor’s degree in Art History from Indiana University. Auscherman co-edited Herman Miller: A Way of Living (Phaidon Press, 2019) and has contributed to monographs and exhibition catalogs including U-Joints: A Taxonomy of Connections (Sync Sync Srl, 2023), Serious Play: Design in Mid-Century America (Yale University Press, 2018) and the Eames Furniture Sourcebook (Vitra Design Museum, 2017).