For the centenary of the Bauhaus, Knoll narrates the passages of a legacy that still has powerful repercussions in our contemporary world, in the exhibition “Knoll celebrates Bauhaus” curated by OMA, the studio co-founded by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, with the collaboration of Domitilla Dardi, design curator and historian, in the showroom at Piazza Bertarelli during the Salone del Mobile in Milan.
The Bauhaus, the German school that exerted a unique influence on the modern evolution of design, was founded 100 years ago.
The Bauhaus school’s legacy is intertwined with that of Knoll through company co-founder Florence Knoll who studied with Bauhaus masters – Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer.
Florence Knoll also adapted Modernist principles with those of the American Modern movement to create a new “total design” approach relating architecture, people and furniture.
The Bauhaus was the school that founded our present idea of modernity, the same that Knoll has been producing since its birth and is pursuing still now.
This is an unprecedented tribute, made with contemporary eyes that look at a story that has become the common heritage of all those who believe that learning is the true path to doing
“ This installation is an attempt to give theatrical form to the multiple relations that connect the emblematic histories of the Bauhaus and Knoll. We have imagined true sets in which different objects exist in an ideal domestic scenario – a meta-interior – offering the visitor the possibility of activating and discovering them.
The iconic products by Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe and Florence Knoll are therefore never separated from the modern ideal of everyday functionality, and come to terms with other objects belonging to a wider historical and cultural context.
Since our first collaboration with Knoll we have set out to translate the motto ‘Modern Always’ in a creative way, paying homage, case by case, to the great masters of the 20th century.
This year we have focused on the milestones of a relationship that has been decisive for the construction of international modernism. ” ……………. Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, OMA partner
An installation curated in the layout and content of Studio OMA that will stage – as in a sort of “theatre of objects” – the key elements of the story that unites Knoll to the Bauhaus and their protagonists: Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Florence Knoll.
Three clusters will recreate the way in which these masters conceived the design of space and of furniture in relation to its surroundings.
A fourth cluster is called “Complexity and Contradiction”, citing the famous post-modernist essay by Robert Venturi, and will stage the reactions to Modernism that have challenged the Bauhaus principles, but were never able to ignore them
The story is told by means of four environments/clusters like theatrical stages, encouraging viewers to participate, in the spirit of the German school’s famous tenet of “Learning by Doing.”
Each area thematically frames the work of the respective designer; there are also two spaces that combine Knoll designs from across the decades.
Together, the various vignettes paint an homage to the ever-present modern ideologies put forth by the Bauhaus.
Entering the four settings, visitors can have a direct experience of the objects and furnishings that take leading roles, creating narrative compositions that vary in the experience of each and every participant.
The first cluster is on Marcel Breuer, a designer who experienced the Bauhaus as both a student and then a teacher.
His early years of study took place in the context of the contrast between the two different spirits of the school, that of expressionism – with a closer connection to crafts and local folk traditions – and that of rationalism – more international, with an accent on industrial design.
Breuer’s choice was that of an entire generation of enlightened creative talents: the international modernity that combined art and technique.
His furniture in metal tubing, inspired by bicycle frames, generated works that reflect an authentically timeless vision of design.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was the protagonist of the final phase of the Bauhaus, as seen in the second cluster.
This is the moment of the rise of Rationalism, of the International Style that set the character of modernity all over the world.
The focus in this phase is on the value of projects conceived for a very wide audience; the crucial challenge was to bring quality to the largest possible number of people.
Alongside the icons of the absolute Master of Rationalism, from the MR series to the Barcelona chair, the exhibition features objects that symbolize progress combined with essential elegance – cameras, telephones – but also a new idea of emancipated and independent womanhood (embodied by Eileen Gray in design and Coco Chanel in fashion).
The bridge between the Bauhaus and Knoll is the central figure of Florence Knoll, protagonist of the third cluster.
In her extraordinary life, Florence shifted from encounters with Gropius and Breuer to studies as the favourite student of Mies.
Through Knoll’s production, she brought the icons of the idea of modernity that was the basis of Mies’ leadership at the Bauhaus – and his entire career – to a much wider audience.
From this great master, Florence learned the secrets of harmonious design, made not of individual items but of the skillful orchestration of leading roles and extras, all necessary factors in the great project of inhabitable space.
Complexity and Contradiction – Robert Venturi
The fourth cluster offers an analytical look at the legacy of the Bauhaus in contemporary design.
Our entire epoch, including what has been defined as the Postmodern since the 1960s, has an indisputable cultural debt to the Modern Movement of which the Bauhaus was the emblem.
Even those who have challenged the rational approach and the modernist logic have developed their alternatives in reaction to that original design model.
In this cluster the theatrical approach is taken to new heights through a dialogue between opposites – represented by furnishing-characters – to create a critical debate on the multiplicity of solutions in our complex contemporary world.
“ We felt strongly about making this project become a concrete reality precisely during a week of such great importance for international design. It is an exhibition that underscores the strong bond between our company and the Modern Movement.
“ After this debut, the exhibition will travel to the cities of Paris, London, Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney, among others, demonstrating the intention of pursuing our intellectual, cultural and creative commitment with a forceful projection into the future, while never losing touch with all the values that set Knoll apart.” ……………….. Demetrio Apolloni, President of Knoll Europe
Historical Posters used in the Installation
About Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli
Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli is a partner (since 2014) at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA )
Together with Anna Puigjaner and Marina Otero Verzier he is a tutor on ADS8: Domestic Institutions at the Royal College of Art.
The studio looks at temporary, communal spaces for food preparation and consumption as a testing ground for alternative models of domestic institutions.
ADS8 will use Manifesta, the nomadic European Contemporary Art Biennial, as a cultural and spatio‐temporal framework.
Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli joined OMA in 2007 and is based in Rotterdam.
Ippolito’s work at OMA / AMO has a focus on preservation, scenography, and curation.
Projects led by Ippolito include the renovation of Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) in Berlin (ongoing); Panda, an exhibit for the 2016 Oslo Triennale; the transformation design of the 16th century Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice (2016); the design of Repossi’s flagship store on Place Vendôme in Paris (2016); Monditalia, a multi-disciplinary exhibition focused on Italy, at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale; scenography for the Greek theater of Syracuse in Sicily (2012); and the co-curation of Cronocaos, OMA’s exhibition on preservation at the 2010 Venice Architectural Biennale.
Ippolito is currently curating Manifesta’s 12th edition (2018) taking place in Palermo and has led OMA’s urban studies on the Sicilian city.
Through collaborations with different brands including Repossi, Galleries Lafayette, Knoll, and Prada his activity extends to research, product design, temporary installations, and publications.
Since 2010, Ippolito is responsible for a range of AMO projects with Prada, including the stage design for the brand’s fashion shows and special events, and the art direction of videos.
He contributes to exhibition design for Fondazione Prada, with projects such as When Attitudes Become Form: 1969/2013 and Serial Classics (2015).
Ippolito holds a Master of Architecture from the Politecnico di Milano.
Along his activities as partner at OMA, Ippolito is currently curating the 12th edition of Manifesta in Palermo, together with Dutch Film Maker Bregtje Van der Haak
Swiss contemporary art curator Mirjam Varanidis, and Spanish architect Andrés Jacques.Ippolito is also teaching the MSC2 research studio at TU Delft as part of the Complex Projects Chair.
About Domitilla Dardi
Domitilla Dardi was born in Rome in 1970.
After graduating in History of Art at La Sapienza, Università degli Studi di Roma, she attained a Ph.D in History of Architecture at Università Federico II di Napoli, with Prof. Renato De Fusco.
From 2003 to 2007 she taught History of Design and History of Contemporary Art in Facoltà di Architettura of Ascoli Piceno.
In 2007 and 2008 she was the curator of the exhibition “Design A_Z” at MAXXI Museum of Rome.
In the last few years she’s been working like company consultant, copywriter and museum curator at MAXXI, always in design and architecture section.
Now she’s teaching History of Design, History of Interior Design at IED, Roma, in the Interior Design Master and in the Interior Yacht Design Master.
She has authored several publications:
Achille Castiglioni (Testo e Immagine, Torino,)
Il Design di Alberto Meda. Una concreta leggerezza (Electa, Milano, 2005)
Il Campus Vitra, una collezione di Architetture ( with F. Argentero, Meltemi, 2007)
Lampade and Negozi 2 (Federico Motta, 2007)
The Design in 100 objects (Federico Motta, 2009)
Interior Yacht Design (Electa, 2009)
Knoll is a constellation of design-driven brands and people, working together with our clients to create inspired modern interiors.
Knoll has an internationally recognized portfolio including furniture, textiles, leathers, accessories, and architectural and acoustical elements brands.
These brands — Knoll Office, Knoll Studio, Knoll Textiles, Knoll Extra, Spinneybeck | FilzFelt, Edelman Leather, Muuto, Holly Hunt, and DatesWeiser — reflect Knoll’s commitment to modern design that meets the diverse requirements of high performance workplaces and luxury interiors.
A recipient of the National Design Award for Corporate and Institutional Achievement from the Smithsonian`s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Knoll is aligned with the U.S. Green Building Council and the Canadian Green Building Council and can help organizations achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) workplace certification.
Knoll is the founding sponsor of the World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk program