Joining the 80th anniversary celebration, Architectural Digest dug deep into the Knoll archives, tracing eight decades of innovative and modern design. Citing iconic pieces of furniture from the Knoll portfolio, writer David Nash takes the reader through a brief history of “museum-worthy” chairs: Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair (1925), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair (1929), Saarinen’s Womb Chair (1952), and Harry Bertoia’s Diamond Chair (1952) – to name a few.
Nash charts the brand's origins in precise detail, describing the beginnings as a story of Hans and Florence Knoll’s own, “determination, ingenuity, and passion.” A German immigrant, Hans Knoll moved to the United States in 1937, founding Hans Knoll Furniture and establishing the first office on Madison Avenue in 1938.
Shortly thereafter, Knoll would cultivate what Architectural Digest pinpoints as, “two decisive and important relationships” that would shape the company’s early history. The first, Han's relationship with Danish designer Jens Risom, a fellow immigrant and Knoll’s first commissioned designer. Together the two introduced modernism in furniture design to the United States and, “brought a modern European feel to the corporate interiors of industrial giants like Johnston & Johnston and General Motors, as well as to the private office of Nelson Rockefeller.”
Nash cites the second critical relationship as the one between Hans Knoll and Florence Schust, whom he was introduced to in 1941. Schust worked with a number of influential architects, such as Eero Saarinen and Marcel Breuer, that would eventually become furniture designers for Knoll. Nash also highlights that as Hans and Florence Knoll’s, “creative partnership flourished, an equally inspiring romance ensued.” Hans and Florence eventually married in 1946. Also pivotal for Florence’s time with Knoll was her development of the Planning Unit, “a comprehensive design solution for Knoll’s roster of clients,” that would become, “the design standard for offices of contemporary corporate powerhouses.”
In addition to tracing the Knoll heritage, Architectural Digest caught up with Benjamin Pardo, Knoll Director of Design, who reiterated Knoll’s commitment to the tradition of modernism and emphasis on innovative workplace design. True to Florence Knoll’s development of the Planning Unit, Pardo stated that Knoll has, “thrived by identifying the best architects and industrial designers worldwide to solve workplace challenges with product solutions that redefine flexibility, or address the roles of individuals and teams.”
Pardo also discussed the new products that Knoll will release in honor of the company’s 80th anniversary. In addition to working with Piero Lissoni on upholstered seating, Knoll will be introducing a chair by architect and industrial designer Marc Newson that Pardo states, “honors Mie’s cantilevered chairs. The Newson design synthesizes simplicity, material, and precision, in the modernist tradition.”