Andrew Blauvelt, Director of the Cranbrook Art Museum, sat down with Lester Graham of NPR and Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham for an episode of Stateside – a podcast that covers Michigan culture, lifestyle, public policy and news. Blauvelt and Graham discussed the legacy of Michigan-born Florence Knoll Bassett, whose remarkable contributions to the world of design began at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. “She’s kind of a reflection of Cranbrook,” remarked Blauvelt, “Eliel Saarinen believed in designing everything from the landscape that the building sits on, to the building itself, to the furniture inside the building, to the plates and dishes that would be on the table inside the building…She also approached her work in the same way. Wanting to bring Modern architecture inside and complete a ‘total design’ environment.”
Blauvelt also discussed Florence Knoll’s pioneering of Modernism and application of her architectural training to spatial planning, an approach that upended the design of workplace interiors. “I think her magic was [that] she was able to translate the principles of Modern architecture and develop it at a different scale, at the interior scale,” states Blauvelt. In addition, Blauvelt highlighted Florence Knoll’s client-first approach to designing corporate interiors. “She was very rigorous about developing – studying the client’s needs, the arrangement of the organization, the workflows, how people interacted – how space should be planned and organized inside a company,” states Blauvelt.
Additionally, Blauvelt emphasized Florence Knoll’s ability to cultivate emerging talent and promote their work through Knoll. “She was the connector,” reflected Blauvelt of her capability to collaborate with leading mid-century Modern figures, “She had a whole network around the world of architects and designers, and really befriended them.”