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Modern Furniture Designer: Florence Knoll Bassett


                 Florence Knoll Bassett (born May 24, 1917) is an American architect and furniture designer who studied under Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarinen. She was born in Saginaw, Michigan as Florence Schust and is known in familiar circles simply as "Shu". She graduated from the Kingswood School before studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art (both institutions are located on the same campus in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan). Knoll also received a bachelor's degree in architecture from Armour Institute (now Illinois Institute of Technology) in 1941 and briefly worked with leaders of the Bauhaus movement, including Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and Wallace K. Harrison.


Florence Knoll Bassett

Florence Knoll Bassett accepts congratulations from the Bushes upon being awarded the National Medal of the Arts.


                 Florence worked with other leading architects and designers, including Walter Gropius (founder of the Bauhaus movement), Marcel Breuer and Wallace K. Harrison.

                 In 1943, Florence began working for Hans Knoll Furniture in the company’s New York City-based office on Madison Avenue and was soon business and design partner for Hans Knoll. Florence was instrumental in the establishment of the Knoll Planning Unit, which works closely with clients to indentify their workspace needs to develop furnishing solutions to meet those needs. At the time, this model was forward-thinking and advanced for the existing design practices. Today, it is the model used by corporate designers. It was from this model that Florence coined Knoll’s motto: “Good design is good business.”

                 In 1946, the young and talented Florence Schust married Hans Knoll and the two established Knoll Associates, Inc. In the same year, Knoll was commissioned to do the interiors of the Rockefeller family offices in Rockefeller Plaza. This would become the first of many projects for the Rockefellers.

                 In 1951, Florence Knoll designed the Madison Avenue Knoll showroom. Other Knoll showrooms designed by Florence were opened in Chicago in 1953 followed by Milan and San Francisco in 1956.

                 Florence Knoll revolutionized interior space planning. Her belief in “total design” — architecture, manufacturing, interior design, textiles, graphics, advertising and presentation — as well as her application of these principles was radically different than the standard practice in the 1950s. These practices have grown to be widely accepted practices today.

                 Florence Knoll Bassett has received many awards and accolades during her career including the American Institute of Architects’ Industrial Design Gold Medal, the American Society of Interior Designers’ Total Design Award and the National Medal of Arts, awarded by President George W. Bush.

                 Florence Knoll Bassett was the inspiration and driving force of Knoll design practices that serve as the foundation of Knoll’s mission and core design values today.



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