Lilly Reich co-designer of the Barcelona Chair 1885 - 1947
Lilly Reich was born on the 16th of June 1885 in Berlin.
However her fascination with contrasting textures and innovative use of fabrics no doubt began here, and was to be highly pertinent in her later career as a furniture designer, and to her work as a teacher of interior design at the Bauhaus School some years later.
At the age of 23 she moved to Vienna where she worked in the studio of Joseph Hoffman, a renowned Mid Century modernist designer, responsible for such furniture designs as the Kubus armchair and sofa.
In 1912 she joined a government sponsored organization called the werkbund, dedicated to the promotion of German products and designs. This was to be a lasting passion and reoccuring theme in her career. She opened her own design studio two years later at the age of 29, soon developing a good professional reputation. So good in fact that 6 years later in 1920 she was made the first female director of the Werkbund. It was her responsibilty to plan and curate design exhibits intended to promote German designers. Including one just before the war at the Museum of Art in Newark, New Jersey.
It was also through their mutual involvement with the Werkbund that Reich met Mies Van Der Rohe, the famous architect and designer. For thirteen years between 1925 and 1938, when Mies emigrated to the USA, they were partners both personnally and professionally.
Reich is credited with having co-designed some of Mies' most famous works - his Barcelona Chair, also known as the pavilion chair and the Brno chair.
Albert Pheiffer, Vice President of Design and Management at Knoll, has been researching and lecturing on Reich for some time and he points out that:
In 1930 Mies became the director of the Bauhaus School of architecture and design, and Reich joined the faculty as one of the first female teachers. She taught interior design and furniture design there until the late 1930s.
In 1939 Lilly visited Mies in the US but unfortunately did not stay, shortly after returning to Germany war broke out. In 1943 her studio was bombed. Luckily for us when the bombing started she had moved 4000 drawings including 900 of her own and 3100 of Mies' to a farmhouse outside of Berlin to protect them.
Reich was drafted into a forced labor organization from 1943 to 1945. After her release and before her untimely death in 1947 she was instrumental in reviving the Werkbund, although it did not receive full legal status, until three years after her death.
Modern Furniture Designers