Florence Knoll Bassett, 101, Designer of the Modern American Office, Dies | Modern Society of USA

Florence Knoll Bassett, 101, Designer of the Modern American Office, Dies

Florence Knoll Bassett, 101, Designer of the Modern American Office, Dies

To market their merchandise, the Knolls established showrooms in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas and other American cities, as well as in Europe, Asia and South America. They kept their New York showroom, but moved the base of operations in 1950 to East Greenville, Pa., northwest of Philadelphia.

After Mr. Knoll died in a car accident in 1955, Ms. Knoll succeeded him as president and held that post until 1960. Although she sold her interest in the company, she remained as its design director until 1965, when she retired to a private practice in architecture and design in Florida. In her last decade at Knoll, the company doubled in size and became one of the nation’s most influential design organizations.

In 1984, Paul Goldberger, then the architecture critic of The Times, wrote that Ms. Knoll “probably did more than any other single figure to create the modern, sleek, postwar American office, introducing contemporary furniture and a sense of open planning into the work environment.”

Florence Marguerite Schust was born in Saginaw, Mich., on May 24, 1917, to Frederick and Mina (Haisting) Schust. Her father, an engineer and the president of a baking company, died when she was 5, her mother when she was 12. A precocious child fascinated with architecture, Florence was virtually adopted in the 1930s by Eliel Saarinen and his wife, Loja.

She attended Kingswood, a girls’ school in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and later its affiliate in the same city, the Cranbrook Academy of Art, a fountainhead of architecture and design. Both were residential schools for practicing artists, overseen by Eliel Saarinen. His son, Eero, also a Cranbrook student, went on to design the CBS headquarters in New York and the winged TWA Flight Center at Kennedy International Airport.

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