The Politics of Furniture—Identity, Diplomacy and Persuasion in Postwar Interiors

Knoll Showroom

1330 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY
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For our first Modern Conversations event of the year Docomomo US NY/Tri-state is excited to welcome Fredie Floré and Cammie McAtee, co-editors of and contributors to The Politics of Furniture. Identity, Diplomacy and Persuasion in Post-War Interiors (Routledge 2017). Their work is based on the observation that in many different parts of the world modern furniture served as a material expression of power in the postwar era. It was often meant to express an international and in some respects apolitical modern language, but when placed in a sensitive setting or a meaningful architectural context, furniture, the literal embodiment of soft power, was capable of negotiating or manipulating ideological messages.


The agency of modern furniture was often less overt than that of political slogans or statements, but as the chapters in the book reveal, it had the potential of becoming a persuasive and malleable ally in very diverse politically charged arenas. Through essays on such wide-ranging subjects as American and Australian embassies, government palaces in Brasilia, the Royal Library in Brussels, Knoll and Herman Miller showrooms, hotel design in Belgian colonies and in the Caribbean, design schools in Québec, and furniture production in Japanese prisons, The Politics of Furniture examines furniture design and interiors as a consolidating as well as disrupting force in the global context between 1945 and the mid-1970s.


For this talk Floré and McAtee will give specific focus to the chapter they authored on the arrival of Knoll in France, “Knolling Paris: From the ‘New Look’ to Knoll au Louvre.” The talk will include as yet unpublished illustrations from archival research and personalities central to the theme: Florence Knoll, Yves Vidal (director of Knoll International France), and Charles Sévigny (American interior designer based in Paris).


Fredie Floré is an engineer‐architect and Associate Professor in history of (interior) architecture at KU Leuven, Faculty of Architecture. Her research focuses on the representational role of architecture, interiors and furniture design in Belgium in the second half of the 20th century and on such topics as the introduction of Knoll in the Benelux, the architecture of Belgian embassies and the Belgian participation in the Milan Trienniales. Cammie McAtee is a Montreal-based architectural historian and curator. She recently completed her dissertation (Harvard University) on the question of form in postwar American architecture. Before resuming her studies, she was a curator at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Her research focuses on North American architectural culture and the work of such architects as Eero Saarinen, Philip Johnson and Louis Kahn.


Tuesday March 20, 6:30 pm
Knoll Showroom
1330 Avenue of the Americas (at West 54th Street)
Second Floor. Enter through building lobby
Reception to follow


Tickets: $15 DOCOMOMO Members; $25 General Admission.

Capacity limited.  Advance registration required