This is the third installment in our Designer of the Week series. Last week we profiled Børge Mogensen.
Berliners, according to a bunch of German blog posts , usually separate themselves from the rest of Germany for a variety of interesting reasons. Apparently they’re much more ‘punk,’ relaxed, and not as preoccupied with punctuality and good behavior.
Mainly trained in embroidery, (but a genius industrial designer, furniture designer, and interior designer) lifelong Berliner Lilly Reich was born in 1885.
The first female director of the famous Deutscher Werkbund (appointed 1920), Reich was a part of the Vienna Workshop from 1908 to 1911 and she was 23 years old when she began her design journey. She was also the first woman ever to use steel as the primary building material in a furniture collection, like you can see above.
Her tubular meanderings brought about many design breakthroughs, setting the stage for the steel tubes that we use today in chairs, sofas, tables, etc.
Reich did most of her professional early work in Germany. After getting a very good career head start in Vienna, she returned to Berlin in 1911 and began working on personal projects. She held her post at the Deutscher Werkbund until 1924 when she also became a part of the Fair Trade Office. There she organized the different trade fairs that would showcase various interior design works.
This was about years after Reich had repurposed her studio into a dressmaker’s shop, where she worked throughout most of World War I. She organized two exhibitions at the Newark Museum in New Jersey, which were viewed by more than 4,000 people. Lilly Reich also became a Bauhaus staff teacher in 1930, and primarily taught interior design and furniture design until the beginning of the 1940s.
Lilly Reich designed furniture and delved into apartment furnishing and interior design until her death in 1947. She remained in Germany during the entirety of World War II, and even had one of her studio’s destroyed by bombings in 1943. She even spent some time at a labor camp until 1945.
Connection with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
One of the issues regarding Reich’s legacy in furniture and architecture is that many times she’s referred only as a proxy to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, with whom she collaborated constantly throughout the 1920s and 30s.
If you search for Reich’s furniture works, 90% of results will probably include Mies. However, Reich was more than just a collaborator, she was an active designer who had her own ideas and produced a great amount of furniture designs, particularly dining chairs. Her designs were small and to the point, paving the way for a certain kind of minimalism that still exists today.
Anyone interested on her works will know to search for the “LR” code in Bauhaus catalogs and websites about design and furniture. As an added note, the design idea of the daybed is one of Reich’s contributions to interior and furniture design.