Knoll Design Director Benjamin Pardo joined Dropbox for its Designer Speaker Series on Thursday, July 23. Following introductory remarks by Alastair Simpson, Dropbox Vice President of Design, Pardo delivered remarks on craftsmanship and Modern design from the perspective of a heritage brand.
With Simpson’s theme in mind, Pardo explained the design precedent established by Florence Knoll and her peers during the formative years of the American mid-century Modern movement. “Design is nothing more than a problem-solving mechanism,” Pardo tells Simpson, referencing the 1941 Museum of Modern Art Organic Design in Home Furnishings Competition won by Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames for their work in bent plywood.
While possessing the same educational and ideological foundations as the famous Eameses, Florence Knoll took a more rational approach to Modernism that shaped the philosophy of the nascent furniture company she ran with her husband Hans. “She intended to create sub-architectural spaces in an overall space to break things down. And then she worked with people like Saarinen and Bertoia to make sculptural forms that represent the idea of the background and foreground,” says Pardo to Knoll’s approach to craft and design, adding that, whatever Knoll makes, “needs to maintain the heritage and continue to do that.”
To illustrate Florence Knoll’s prevailing ideology and approach to design and craft in the present, Pardo chose two contemporary Knoll designers that create user-centric furniture that both shape and mediate space—Rem Koolhaas and Antenna Design principals Sigi Moeslinger and Masamichi Udagawa. Of Rem Koolhaas’ Tools for Life counter for Knoll, Pardo comments, “Rem was a very interesting project because it was an intellectual idea that we wanted to explore. And in some ways, I went into it understanding that this product was not intended to sell in hundreds of millions, but was very much about the image and the process of what the design itself was. The wall object could transform from a wall to a gathering space.” Similarly, Antenna Design principals begin their design process with this thinking at the core, says Pardo. “How do you create a space or an object that acts as a facilitator for people to interact?”