The New York Times photoessay, "The Story of Modern Art and Design, Housed in a Suburban Detroit Basement" by Leslie Camhi, explores how the Cranbrook Art Academy, dubbed "the most designed environment you will encounter in the United States" by Andrew Blauvelt, director of the Cranbrook Art Museum, explores the history of the iconic Academy and looks at pieces by past students. The Academy boasts students and teachers from Knoll’s noteworthy list of designers, including - Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames, and Eero Saarinen - all of whom taught and studied there.
The Cranbrook Art Museum, which is slated to open this month, houses many of Knoll’s iconic furniture pieces. As the article notes “Chairs loom large in Cranbrook’s legacy. Famous seating designed by alumni includes Harry Bertoia’s steel wire Diamond Chair (1952), manufactured by Knoll International - whose founder, Florence Knoll, grew up at Cranbrook. Before Knoll enrolled there to study architecture, she boarded as an orphaned adolescent at the Eliel Saarinen-designed Kingswood School for Girls, a private preparatory school also on campus.” The Knoll roots run deep at Cranbrook as Eero Saarinen’s father was the first resident architect, president, and head of the architecture department of the school, and his mother contributed hand-woven tapestries to the aforementioned Kingswood School for Girls where Florence Knoll attended which now lie in the museum’s vault. Eero Saarinen’s own designs also loom large in the museum with his Tulip chair“ reflect[ing] his early passion for sculpture.”
Knoll’s designers were all influenced by the ideals of Cranbrook - “There was never any one correct path - it was about finding your own voice.” This is reflected greatly in the architecture and design of the school itself which“ comes out of that Northern European tradition of Gesamtkunstwerk, the ‘total work of art’. You go into a house and everything is designed - every door, window, plate, fork, and rug. This sense of individuality and high attention to craftsmanship helped inspire Knoll’s designers to not only study there but to come back and guide new and upcoming designers.