- Category : 1885-births
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Small (43,56,62)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Eden 2
German modernist designer who was a close collaborator with Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe for more than ten years in the late 1920s and '30s. During her career she designed store windows, exhibition displays, furniture, textiles and clothes. Lilly Reich collaborated and co-designed the Brno Chair, the famous Barcelona Chair, and the Barcelona Pavilion along with van der Rohe on behalf of the German government for the 1929 World Exhibition in Barcelona, Spain. She was Van Der Rohe's personal and professional partner for 13 years from 1925 until his emigration to the U.S. in 1938.
In 1908 she put her embroidery training to use when she went to Vienna to work for the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) of Josef Hoffmann, a visual arts production company of designers, artists, and architects. She returned to Berlin by 1911. There she began to design furniture and clothing. She also worked as a shop window decorator at this time. The following year she joined the Deutscher Werkbund, or German Work Federation, a group similar to the Vienna Workshop whose purpose was to help improve competitiveness of German companies in the global market. That year she designed a sample working-class flat in the Berlin Gewerkschaftshaus, or Trade Union House. It received much praise for the clarity and functionalism of the furnishings. In 1920 Reich became the first woman elected to the governing board of the Deutscher Werkbund.
In 1921–1922, Reich organized and prepared two large exhibitions to be shown at the Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey. The first exhibition, entitled "The Applied Arts," consisted entirely of women's clothing and accessories, seeking to promote the revival of German fashion and increase cooperation between artists and manufacturers. The second exhibition was an enormous undertaking with the display of more than 1,600 objects, many chosen by Reich, to showcase the quality and breadth of German industrial design.
From 1924 to 1926 she worked at the Messeamt, or Trade Fair Office, in Frankfurt am Main, where she was in charge of organizing and designing trade fairs. It was there that she met Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, vice president of the Deutscher Werkbund. This sparked a period of involvement of furniture for van der Rohe as the two collaborated on many projects. In 1927 the pair worked on Die Wohnung in Stuttgart for the Werkbund. She designed many interiors for this exhibition including Wohnraum in Spiegelglas ("living space in mirror glass").
In 1929 she became the artistic director for the German contribution to the Barcelona World Exposition, where van der Rohe designed his world-famous pavilion. This is where the famous Barcelona chair made its first appearance. This pavilion was considered the highlight of their design efforts.
In 1932 Lilly was asked by van der Rohe to teach at the Bauhaus and direct the interior design workshop. The Bauhaus was closed shortly after in 1933 by the Nazis who saw their work as “degenerate art, probably influenced by Jews.”
She taught at the Universität der Künste in Berlin after the Second World War, but not for long because she became ill and had to resign. She died a few years later on 14 December 1947 at age 62 in Berlin.
In 1996, the MoMa in New York presented an exhibition on her work "Lilly Reich: Designer and Architect" which for the first time brought attention to this influential but almost forgotten designer.