The Daily Heller: Florence Knoll in Two Minutes (Almost Exactly)

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With my memory of an Olivetti love affair yesterday and today’s post about Florence Knoll, this is shaping up to be a Midcentury Modern reprise. I cannot promise that tomorrow will bring more ’50s/’60s treats—but one never knows.

Whenever I read phrases like “2-minute read” at the top of an online article, I take it with a grain of salt (in fact, I use my egg timer to make certain). Surprisingly, this delightful montage about the great Florence Knoll’s storied life, directed and designed by Lorenzo Petrantoni, comes in close to the exact promised time.

I’ve long admired Petrantoni’s illustration/design; his sense of form, space and wit. Yet I never would have paired him with Knoll’s aesthetic (and I would have been wrong). In this brief chat I ask him to explain how and why he took on the challenge.

(The interview was conducted in English and Italian.)

How did you get this job?
Mi hanno contattato direttamente il cliente di Knoll Europa per raccontare visivamente il progetto della sua fondatrice.

I was approached directly by Knoll Europe’s client to visually tell the story of its founder’s project.

There seems to be something counterintuitive about combining your brand of ornament and controlled chaos with Knoll’s sleek, clean modernism. How did you feel about the pairing?
E stato un esercizio grafico estremamente intrigante e affascinante, lavorare per un brand che delle forme ha fatto la sua storia. Ho cercato di lavorare combinando la forma del design con la mia grafica. Cercando di ricalcare le linee rigorose e decise di Knoll all’interno di incisione del 1800, cercando di ottenere una gradevolezza estetica.

It was an extremely intriguing and fascinating graphic exercise, working for a brand that has made its history out of shapes. I tried to work by combining the form of design with my graphics. Trying to trace Knoll’s strict and decisive lines within engraving from the 1800s, trying to achieve aesthetic pleasantness.

How did you balance your style with Midcentury Modernism?
Penso che la grafica possa, se fatta con accortezze, convivere con estremi e in alcuni casi in maniera molto originale e elegante. Io non so se sono riuscito a cogliere questo messaggio, ma il tentativo e cercare di ottenere un’immagine piacevole anche se fatta con elementi grafici distanti circa 100 anni.

I think graphics can, if done judiciously, live with extremes, and in some cases in a very original and elegant way. I don’t know if I’ve been able to capture that message, but the attempt is to try to get a pleasing image even if it’s done with graphic elements that are about 100 years apart.

What was the most insightful idea that you got while researching for the film?
In tutto il video ci sono riferimenti grafici molto eleganti, in alcuni fotogrammi ho provato a sovrapporre delle linee alle foto e ho ottenuto delle stampe vagamente simili a dei quadri di Mondria

Throughout the video there are very elegant graphic references; in some frames I tried superimposing lines on the photos and got prints vaguely resembling Mondrian paintings.

Your work involves so much vintage graphic material pasted together in unique contemporary ways. How do you feel about Knoll’s modernism and that of the designers she worked with?
Ho avuto in casa dei miei genitori oggetti Knoll quindi mi hanno inconsciamente influenzato.Crescendo ho iniziato a guardali non più con indifferenza come quando ero adolescente, oggi nonostante siano passati diversi anni hanno mantenuto un design per me molto elegante, superando la barriera del tempo. Florence Knoll ha lavorato con i più importanti designer architetti lasciandoci una eredità di eleganza e condivido la citazione di Ludwig Mies van der Rohe “Dio è nei dettagli”.

I had Knoll objects in my parents’ house so they unconsciously influenced me. As I grew up I began to look at them no longer with indifference as I did when I was a teenager, today despite the fact that several years have passed they have maintained a very elegant design for me, overcoming the barrier of time. Florence Knoll has worked with leading designer architects leaving us a legacy of elegance and I agree with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s quote “God is in the details”.

Do you foresee more mini bio docs happening in the future?
Ogni tanto mi capita, e dietro queste storie di solito sconosciute scopro accadimenti molto affascinanti che in molti casi hanno influenzato grandi progetti.

Every now and then it happens to me, and behind these stories are usually unknown but very fascinating stories that have led to great projects.

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