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Knoll Designer Bios

Don Knorr

b. USA, 1922

After completing his degree in architecture in 1947, Don Knorr was accepted as a graduate student in design at Cranbrook. In tandem with his graduate studies, he worked in the office of Eero Saarinen, where he was involved in the development of Saarinen’s 70-Series furniture.

Saarinen encouraged him to enter the 1948 International Competition for Low-cost Furniture Design held by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Knorr completed three sets of boards for his entry before adapting revisions recommended by Saarinen. Knorr: “He told me, ‘You’ve got this really simple idea and you are trying to make the thing look complicated.’” The simplified design won first prize in the seating division. MoMA held the production rights briefly, and in 1950 Knoll began producing the chair.

Knorr recalled: “The first thing I learned from Hans Knoll was that the major cost of getting a product started was the casts and molds. My design eliminated all that.” Conceived initially as a shell of thick thermal plastic, Knoll found production costs too high, so the material for the final production model was sheet steel, with or without upholstery.

Description courtesy Brian Lutz. ©Brian Lutz