03/14/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/14/2019 15:29
Florence Knoll, a design pioneer and the guiding light of Knoll, died on January 25, 2019 at 101 years old. An advocate of the 'total design' approach, 'Shu' (as she was referred to by close friends and family) revolutionized workplace planning and defined the postwar American interior. Following her death, media outlets across design community honored her legacy. In the March 2019 issue of Contract, Editor-in-Chief Paul Makovsky is the latest to pay tribute to the designer's extraordinary life.
Makovsky charts Florence Knoll's early life, from her tragic childhood to her education in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan at the Kingswood School and Cranbrook Academy of Art. There, 'she was taken under the wings of the Saarinen family, and was exposed to the human-centered approach in many design disciplines from weaving, pottery and furniture to architecture and city planning,' he writes. Additionally, he highlights the achievements she made during her education, such as her invention of 'paste-ups' at the Architectural Association in London, and mentorship under architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whose rationalist design approach had a profound influence on her work, at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Makovsky writes that Shu, 'was one of the most influential architects and designers of postwar America, yet her mark on Modern design transcends any one of these fields.' Elaborating, he states that her legendary career is inextricably linked to Knoll and the Planning Unit, which he labels 'the engine of the firm's success.' Citing Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Heinz and CBS as among the notable projects by the Planning Unit, he observes that her approach to design, 'was rooted in practical needs, based on rigorous space planning and came to represent her signature 'Knoll look' that would epitomize the style of the 1950s.' For Shu, 'Designing an interior was more than just specifying furniture and fabrics.'
By 1957, Florence Knoll, 'was the single most powerful figure in the field of Modern design,' asserts Makovsky. In addition to her own iconic furniture designs, he declares her furniture collaborations with Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia and Pierre Jeanneret as well as textile collaborations with Noemi Raymond, Astrid Sampe, Stig Lindberg, Anni Albers and Sheila Hicks as highlights of her time with Knoll. He concludes that, by the end of her career, she had, 'defined the look for corporate interiors during the 1950s and 1960s, profoundly influenced post-World War II design, raised the level of standards and ethics for interior design as a profession, and promoted the 'open office' workspace through a total design approach.'