To mark its 75th anniversary, Knoll returned to Milan for the Salone Internazionale del Mobile with an innovative presentation of iconic and new residential and workplace designs.
The company’s Salone exhibition, conceived by OMA, the collaborative practice co-founded by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, offers viewpoints on classic and contemporary designs, including “Tools for Life” a new collection of furniture by OMA, ( the architecture office that was co-founded by Rem Koolhaas ) and launched at Prada.
The exhibition underscores Knoll’s place in the modern evolution of design with complementary work by the pantheon of modern masters, including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia and Marcel Breuer.
Benjamin Pardo, Knoll design director, noted that … “OMA conceived our booth at the fair to underscore our founders’ commitment to bring the benefits of modern design to both domestic and work environments. In the process, the OMA team realized a broader cultural collaboration to celebrate our 75th anniversary.”
“Tools for Life” furniture collection by OMA, offers a contemporary interface between furniture and people, supporting the ebb and flow of work and social life, while adjusting to the different needs of both. The collection consists of pieces that address the increasingly blurred boundaries between working and living space by being kinetic rather than static.
“I want to talk about work and not the office—the distinction being that today people work everywhere,” added Benjamin Pardo, Knoll design director. “With that in mind, the OMA pieces are more kinetic than static: many are easily adjustable so that with changes in height, adjacency and degree of privacy, almost any space can be transformed to a place of work.”
Rem Koolhaas has shifted scale to create 11 pieces of furniture for Knoll.
In designing for Knoll, Koolhaas joins the ranks of such architectural legends as Mies van der Rohe, who made Knoll’s signature Barcelona chair, and Frank Gehry, who designed the ribbon-like Hat Trick chair.
“It’s an issue of different speeds,” Koolhaas said. “You can put a great fashion show together in two months, you can put a furniture collection together in a year and a half, and we can do a great building in five years. For me that is the only difference.”
Yet, the winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize acknowledges he had “an early puritanical position that I would never do design.” — Now, he said, “basically, I grew up, and didn’t need to have this repression anymore.”
“It’s deeply satisfying, the quality of designing small things,” he added.
To see more images from the Prada A/W 2012 launch please click here
The collection for Knoll is Rem Koolhaas’ first commercial furniture project.
As Koolhaas said, his goal was to create furniture “that performs in very precise but also in completely unpredictable ways” and indeed, flexibility is the key here.
In Koolhaas’ vision, the pieces don’t just furnish a room, they animate it.
An expanded presentation of the OMA collection, which consists of 11 designs, will be on view at Prada’s Milan exhibition space at via Fogazzaro, 36, ( NB only on the 9th and 10th April ) where the pieces were first previewed during the Fall Men’s Show earlier this year.
Commenting on the endeavor, Rem Koolhaas said, “We wanted to create a range of furniture that performs in very precise but also in completely unpredictable ways, furniture that not only contributes to the interior but also to the animation.”
At the core of the collection is Koolhaas’s belief that furniture should be understood as a high-performance tool rather than a design statement.
The simple, no-nonsense palette makes the furniture compatible with a range of residential and workplace interiors. Clear acrylic is juxtaposed with concrete; glass with leather; travertine with steel—beguiling and engaging contrasts that draw attention to individual pieces.
Horizontal “Tools for Life”
The dynamic 04 Counter is the collection’s signature piece.
A massive, heavily engineered piece called the 04 Counter consists of three horizontal bars that stack like a wall, but which can also pivot and cantilever, transforming the piece from room divider to “piazza,” as Benjamin Pardo, Knoll’s design director, called it, adding, “Once people discover that the object moves, they want to engage with it.”
Beginning as a monolithic stack of three horizontal beams, the user can rotate the top two beams and transform this wall-like unit into a series of shelves and cantilevered benches—a metamorphosis from a spatial partition to a communal gathering place.
Rigorous engineering and a system of internal bearings and rails facilitate 360 degrees of movement.
Patterned wood grain and leather surfaces provide unexpected and subtly sensuous contrasts.
Similarly, the 05 Round Table and the 06 Table (the latter, with its two-layered top, was conceived as an executive desk) can be raised and lowered, by means of an electric mechanism, anywhere from standing height to lounge level.
For individual focused or group collaborative work, the 05 Round Table and 06 Table integrate mechanical sophistication with seemingly effortless effect. Both can be adjusted to accommodate lounge seating or even standing.
The 05 Round Table features a travertine top with a travertine base or an acrylic top with an aluminum base. An exposed mechanism, powered by an electric motor, elevates or lowers the table.
Conceived as an executive desk, the 06 Table has a two-piece laminated glass top. The two horizontal surfaces, one a work surface and the other intended for storage, are separated by four round, glass columns.
The 03 Coffee Table is a stack of three transparent boxes constructed of clear acrylic. Internal slides allow the individual elements to be rotated and cantilevered, giving users the ability to adjust its overall shape depending on changing needs.
Seating “Tools for Life”
Comfort and privacy are explored in the collection’s two primary seating pieces: 01 Arm Chair and 02 Arm Chair with high back.
The 01 Arm Chair is a height-adjustable, swivel lounge chair with a clear acrylic exterior frame and leather interior upholstery. A mechanical column base with a signature red band provides height adjustment at the touch of a button. A concrete base plate grounds the chair. The 02 Arm Chair with high back has the same features, while offering uniquely flexible interior cushioning that when unfolded provides an enveloping privacy .
Adding to the selection, the 11 Floor Seating, featuring simple upholstered cushions, provides alternate seating heights for work, reflection or relaxation.
The 07 Bench and 08 Perch round out the seating options.
The modular bench, made of interconnecting and corner blocks, can be adapted based on user needs. A mortise and tenon mechanism locks the blocks in line; a selection of materials allows for seemingly endless combinations.
The 08 Perch is an adjustable stool with an internal gas assist mechanism. Featuring an upholstered seat, the Perch consists of three cylinders; the top and bottom cylinders are wood; the middle one is acrylic. Offering height adjustment from 19 to 30 inches, the Perch accommodates different work requirements.
Ancillary “Tools for Life”
The 09 Screen can be used to partition specific zones within an overall open space. A base of clear acrylic supports panels of foamed aluminum, travertine or wood grain laminate that can be cantilevered off-center.
The 10 Credenza serves as a complementary piece to any and all of the horizontal table elements by providing storage pockets that are accessed by a hinged lid.
For 75 years Knoll has remained true to the Bauhaus design philosophy that modern furniture should complement architectural space, not compete with it. To this end, the company’s Salone exhibition presents ideas and themes that reflect its rich design heritage of furniture, textiles and accessories with work grounded in clarity of form and honesty in materials.
Landmark collaborations with architects and designers resulting in such iconic work as Dining Tables and the Tulip Collection by Eero Saarinen; the Barcelona® Collection by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; the Bertoia Collection by Harry Bertoia; and the Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer remind Salone visitors of the contemporaneity and accessibility of Knoll’s rich heritage.
Since 1938, Knoll has been recognized internationally for creating workplace and residential furnishings that inspire, evolve, and endure.
Today, its commitment to modern design, understanding of the workplace, and dedication to sustainable design have yielded a unique portfolio of products that respond and adapt to changing needs.
Knoll is aligned with the U.S. Green Building Council and the Canadian Green Building Council and can help companies achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED workplace certification.
Knoll is the founding sponsor of the World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk initiative.
Knoll is the recipient of the 2011 National Design Award for Corporate and Institutional Achievement from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum