Florence Knoll Bassett (1917)

American architect and furniture designer, born Michigan, active New York and Pennsylvania.


Her talents for design and business helped popularize the International Style aesthetic in America, and perhaps more than any other designer, her work has shaped the landscape of the contemporary corporate interior.

Born Florence Schust, known as "Shu" to friends, she studied architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the Architectural Association in London, and under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology (formerly the Armour Institute).

After taking her degree, she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to work for Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, both of whom had left Germany to teach at the Harvard School of Design.

In 1943, Florence took a job in New York at the Hans G. Knoll Furniture Company ¬ó at the time a small studio that primarily manufactured the work of Scandinavian designers.

Following her marriage to the German-born Hans in 1946, the company name changed to the more familiar Knoll Associates. By that time, Florence, with the help of her architectural training, had made considerable progress in reinventing Knoll´s image: She established a space-planning unit to produce coherent, comprehensive interiors; a textiles division to manufacture simple, elegant, and durable upholstery and drapery fabrics; and steered the product line to focus on International Style Modernism. She acquired the rights to produce Mies van der Rohe´s "Barcelona" suite, and throughout her tenure at the company, commissioned work from other well-known designers including Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, and Harry Bertoia.

Hans Knoll´s untimely death in an automobile accident in 1955 left Florence president of the firm. She retired in 1960, but remains a consultant. In 2004, the Philadelphia Museum of Art devoted a major exhibit to her life and work.

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