1940s portrait of Florence Knoll Bassett - Photo by Paul Makovsky via Miami Herald.
1940s portrait of Florence Knoll Bassett – Photo by Paul Makovsky via Miami Herald.

In the wake of World War II “the whole spirit of the time was virgin. We knew we were into something that was different and we let enthusiasm spread.” Said in an interview late Florence Knoll Bassett. Born in 1917, the visionary American architect and furniture designer studied under Mies van Der Rose and contributed to create the sleek modern look and feel of America’s postwar corporate office as an uncluttered, free-flowing workplace environment.

Knoll’s San Francisco showroom in 1954, designed by Florence Knoll - Photo via Azuremagazine.com.
Knoll’s San Francisco showroom in 1954, designed by Florence Knoll – Photo via Azuremagazine.com.

Considered one of the most influential figures in 20th-century design, Florence Knoll Bassett was an influential woman in a male-dominated industry. In 1961 she became the first women to receive the Gold Medal for Industrial Design from the American Institute of Architects.

Photo by Knoll.
Photo by Knoll.

With her first husband Hans, she founded the studio Knoll Associates and completed stunning projects in the 1950s and 1960s such as the CBS, Seagram and Look magazine headquarters in Manhattan.

Her immense contribution in the development of the Knoll furniture brand includes the design many of the company’s classics and illustrious collaborations with design masters such as Eero Saarinen who created the iconic Tulip chair. She also launched a textile program which would have become KnollTextiles.

Left: qn executive office in the First National Bank, 1957. RIGHT: the Los Angeles Knoll Showroom, 1960 - Photo by Knoll.
Left: qn executive office in the First National Bank, 1957. RIGHT: the Los Angeles Knoll Showroom, 1960 – Photo by Knoll.

In 1946 she established the Knoll Planning Unit, giving the company an interior-design arm. Today, the uniquely efficient and total design approach of the Knoll Planning Unit sets the standard for the mid-century Modern interior: open workspaces with meeting areas defined by groups of furniture rather than walls.

Knoll Planning Unit - Photo by Knoll.
Knoll Planning Unit – Photo by Knoll.

After the sudden death of her husband in 1955, Florence Knoll Bassett became the sole director of the company. She served as president until 1959, when she sold the company, but stayed on as design director until 1965. She remarried in 1957 and added the name of her second husband, Harry Hood Bassett, to her own.

The design precepts Florence Knoll pioneered, focusing on the nexus between residential and office design, grounded in observational and quantitative research, continue to guide a new generation of design professionals.” Said Knoll director Kass Bradley.

Left: a textiles swatch wall that would become standard in the industry. Right: Ms. Knoll Bassett reviews a Planning Unit model - Photo by Knoll.
Left: a textiles swatch wall that would become standard in the industry. Right: Ms. Knoll Bassett reviews a Planning Unit model – Photo by Knoll.

“Each time I go East I see something you have done.” Wrote once her friend and colleague Charles Eames. “It is always good, and I feel grateful to you for doing such work in a world where mediocrity is the norm.”

Florence Knoll portrait - Photo by Knoll
Florence Knoll portrait – Photo by Knoll.