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Florence Knoll Bassett, Designer of the Modern American Office, Dies

 

Florence Knoll Bassett in 1961. For 20 years she was instrumental in building Knoll Associates into the largest and most prestigious high-end design firm of its kind.CreditCreditRay Fisher/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images

 

Florence Knoll Bassett, a pioneering designer and entrepreneur who created the modern look and feel of America’s postwar corporate office with sleek furniture, artistic textiles and an uncluttered, free-flowing workplace environment, died on Friday in Coral Cables, Fla. She was 101.

Her death was announced by David E. Bright, a spokesman for Knoll Inc., the company she and her husband Hans Knoll ran for many years.

To connoisseurs of Modernism, the mid-20th-century designs of Florence Knoll, as she was known, were — and still are — the essence of the genre’s clean, functional forms. Transcending design fads, they are still influential, still contemporary, still common in offices, homes and public spaces, still found in dealers’ showrooms and represented in museum collections.

Ms. Knoll learned her art at the side of Modernist masters. She was a protégé of the German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarinen, the Finnish architect and teacher and the father of the architect Eero Saarinen. And she worked with the renowned Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. Throughout her career, influenced by the German Bauhaus school of design, she promoted the Modernist merger of architecture, art and utility in her furnishings and interiors, especially — although not exclusively — for offices.

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