Knoll International

There was a plate on the door of the just opened workshop in New York City that read: „Factory No. 1“.

Without having any idea how things would turn out, Hans Knoll, son of German furniture maker Walter Knoll founded Knoll Furniture in 1938. During the Second World War, Hans Knoll hired the young interior designer Florence Schust, who had studied with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and had worked at the architect’s office of Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer in Boston. Their common goal ‚modern furniture for modern architecture’ became the basis of their successful and close collaboration. They married in 1946 and in the same year founded Knoll Associates. The concept of their furniture design was quite simple: to offer products that embody exquisite design and newest technological achievements.

„We weren’t making history, we were making design“, Florence Knoll (Rouland, p. 4).

The large success made it possible to open an affiliated company, the German Knoll International GmbH in 1951. Others followed and developed into a worldwide organisation: Knoll International. In the meantime, Knoll has become a symbol of the Modern Design movement. Offering products designed by in-house creators or a variety of already famous autonomous designers like Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia or Isamu Noguchi, Knoll plays a leading role in the history of design. Knoll is most famous for producing classics like the ‚Barcelona’ chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer’s ‚Wassily’ chair, Harry Bertoia’s ‚Wire chair’ as well as Eero Saarinen’s ‚Grasshopper’ and his ‚Womb chair’. The classic design of Saarinen’s ‚Pedestal’ chairs and table has proved itself famous and has prevailed so until today. His idea – weightless, elegantly shaped, simple in its construction, stemmed from a strong dislike of legs on furniture. „I wanted to clear up the slum of legs“ (Rouland, S. 29).

Isamu Noguchi’s first design for Knoll was a table light that he had initially created for his sister. Hans Knoll liked it so much that he took it into his production after slight changes had been made. The table light is one of the most popular designs Noguchi created since 1944.

Another important designer who worked for Knoll on a regular basis is Ettore Sottsass. He designed among other things the ‚Westside’ collection, a series of seating furniture that should free offices from their usual dullness.

After Hans Knoll passed away in 1955, Florence Knoll took over business. She sold the factory in 1960 to Art Metal Inc., but worked as a consultant for Knoll for another five years. When she resigned, an era ended for Knoll.

Ever since, Knoll has worked together with important designers and thus produced exquisite pieces of furniture in the tradition of Hans and Florence Knoll.

Stephanie Häfele B.A.

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