Shu U, Part II

Known for her innovative space planning, Florence Knoll Bassett (“Shu” to her friends) recently designed an installation of her work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since interviewing the legendary designer, I’ve become one of her many dedicated fans. Bassett defined the look for corporate interiors in the 1950s and profoundly influenced post-World War II design.

The recent exhibition Florence Knoll Bassett: Defining Modern included furniture she designed for Knoll as well as photographs of her interior projects and material on the process of “total design.” As we talked about the exhibition, our conversation turned to the work Bassett did for former CBS president Frank Stanton, a longtime friend and favorite client. “He was a perfectionist,” she says. “It was rewarding to work with a man who wanted everything to be exactly right.” And although the design problem for the Philadelphia exhibit was wildly different from Stanton’s office—the former was about conquering space when you don’t have it, the latter about making a space interesting when confronted with a repetitive module—both are testaments to her skillful approach to making space an integrated whole.

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