Florence Knoll, a design pioneer and the guiding light of Knoll, died on January 25, 2019. An advocate of the “total design” approach, she revolutionized spatial planning and defined the American postwar interior. As the design community continues to look back on her legacy, Surface magazine interviewed contemporary designers influenced by her work for its March/April 2019 issue.
Michelangelo Sabatino, Dean of the College of Architecture at IIT, comments on her time spent at the university. “When she arrived at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the late-1930s, she was one courageous young woman to venture into what was a predominantly engineering-driven university. Imagine her being one of very few women training under Mies van der Rohe (who arrived in 1938). It is interesting that she would take this very disciplined approach to materials and to making, and also introduce an elegance and personalization,” he told Surface.
Industrial designer and Knoll collaborator Jonathan Olivares explains the timelessness of Florence Knoll’s design methodologies. “Several tactics from Florence Knoll Bassett have become part of my approach to design. The first is the strong relationship between a piece of furniture and the environment it is intended for,” he states. The second, “is recognizing the distinction between a figure and ground in furniture and interiors…These methods transcend time, and can be adopted and built on by future generations.”
Finally, Dorothy Cosonas, Creative Director of KnollTextiles, reflects on Shu’s enduring influence at Knoll. She states, “The bar is set really high – that’s how we feel about the incredible force and true pioneer she was...She set the tone for the company and the types of designs that would live on at KnollTextiles, whether produced in-house by someone like myself or a guest designer. It’s always been as if Florence’s point of view and the spirit of what she did then has to live in what we do today. That’s part of continuing her legacy – making sure we live by who we are.”
Surface also featured Florence Knoll’s notable furniture designs produced by Knoll today: the Florence Knoll Lounge Collection, Table Desk, Credenza and Hairpin Table.