09 MAR 2017

In The Shade - Lilly Reich

Utilitarian and fearless, Lilly Reich's designs made her mark on the future of modernism.

Words by Phoebe Houston Lowe

While the early 20th century was a time of burgeoning innovation within design and architecture, attitudes towards women, were unfortunately not quite as forward thinking. Many of the most celebrated and cutting edge designs during this period were by women, and in most cases credit was not quite given where credit was due. Too often overshadowed by their male counterparts or collaborators, these modernist pioneers did not enjoy the same fame or recognition.

So in honour of International Women’s Day this week, and just because women rule, we wanted to share one of the most influential female designers of the early 20th century and some of her contributions to modernist design.

Berlin born designer and architect, Lilly Reich was the master of the austere. In true Bauhaus fashion she utilised industrial materials like steel tubing to advocate superior design and craftsmanship within mass-produced goods. In retrospect it is easy to see how her utilitarian minimalism informed much of the later mid century pieces we love today.

Cane cantilever, 1927. Reich was fascinated by the cantilever and explored the concept throughout her furniture designs including this cane example.

Her famous male collaborator Mies Van Der Rohe, with whom she shared a close working relationship, has claimed authorship of many of their collaborations through his fame. For example the illustrious Barcelona chair and daybed, which is still marketed by Knoll as Mies’ design even though records show Reich’s design contributions.

Crous apartments - Berlin

The Barcelona Ottoman.

Reich's original daybed design for the interior of the Crous apartments in Berlin - the first model of a daybed on tubular steel feet.

So next time you see a Barcelona chair think of Lilly Reich, and the countless other woman overlooked by male-centric historical accounts.

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