No Compromise: The Work of Florence Knoll

Princeton Architectural. Jun. 2021. 208p. ISBN 9781616899936. $29.95. DEC ARTS
This monograph by architect Araujo posits that modern office design, with its open spaces and clustered seating for informal talk, owes much to the designer Florence Knoll Bassett (1917–2019), as do furniture showrooms with their tableaux of furnished rooms. Upon Knoll’s death, the Architectural Record said she “may have done more to promote modernism than any other woman or man.” Araujo writes that Knoll’s designs successfully melded textured softness with the aesthetic intents of the Saarinens, the Eameses, and other modernists; she worked closely with craftspeople to create the fabrics and colors that became signatures of the Knoll brand. Knoll was herself a trained architect, who was mentored by the Saarinens and Mies van der Rohe. She found her niche by focusing on interiors, an area of less interest to her male peers. Araujo argues that Knoll challenged unspoken rules of the masculine modernist aesthetic in a nonthreatening way.
VERDICT Based on deep research in Knoll’s papers at the Smithsonian, the Cranbrook Institute, and the Knoll Associates Archives, this close look at Knoll’s career makes its case soundly.
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