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Cranbrook Academy of Art Welcomes Designer + Artist Johanna Grawunder - Annual Knoll Lecture on Design

March 3rd, 2020
Johanna Grawunder Headshot

Johanna Grawunder

Bloomfield Hills, Mich., March 3, 2020 – Each year, through the generosity of an endowment from Knoll, Inc., the Knoll Lecture Series at Cranbrook Academy of Art brings a renowned designer to campus for a free public lecture to promote the importance of design and build discussions with the Academy students.

Johanna Grawunder will deliver this year’s lecture, ‘CONCEPT’ at Cranbrook Art Museum on Thursday, March 12, at 6pm.

According to Grawunder, “Every project has a story. Whether a large-scale lighting installation, a unique art-design custom commission or a mass-produced product, the story we choose the tell is the driver of the design. Sometimes the story is a direct programmatic request or user-centered objective. But for my work, the main story is CONCEPT.”

She continues, “Concepts can develop from external interests- ‘pay attention to what you pay attention to’- as well as project-specific inspirations. They are a self-imposed framework around which my work is developed, decisions are made and explained, use of resources are justified (sometimes). Conceptual design is an abstract and idiosyncratic process expressed in everything from materials and color to the title of a thing.”

Grawunder will use the lecture to tell concept stories of her recent work.

Grawunder works on a broad range of projects, including large-scale public lighting and color installations, exhibition design, architectural interventions and interiors, and limited-edition furniture and light collections. Recent projects include a new Light Art collection for Carpenters Workshop Gallery, the personal exhibition Alone Together for Assab One in Milan, exhibition design of the show Van Cleef & Arpels: Time, Nature, Love in Palazzo Reale Milano, and Coding, an immersive light installation recently completed for San Francisco International Airport, and part of the permanent collection of the City and County of San Francisco.

Trained as an architect, she was drawn to the medium of light early on and has tried to incorporate architectural principles and scale, non-precious building materials and high technology light research into her designs.

Her work is included in many museum permanent collections, including the High Museum Atlanta, LACMA, CNAP, SFMOMA, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Art Institute Chicago, Denver Art Museum and Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris.

With a degree in Architecture from California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo, she studied and worked with Gianni Pettena and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia of Superstudio in Florence (1984-1985) then moved to Milan to work with Sottsass Associati (1985-2001), becoming a partner in 1989. At Sottsass Associati she was involved primarily with architecture and interiors, co-designing many of the firm’s most prestigious projects with Ettore Sottsass. In 2001, she opened her own design studio in San Francisco and Milan.

The relationship of Knoll International and Cranbrook Academy of Art dates back to the early 1940s. It was at this time that Florence Schust, who was first a student at Cranbrook Kingswood School for Girls before she enrolled at the Academy, met her husband, Hans Knoll, who founded Knoll International in 1938. The Knolls went on to produce furniture by the Academy’s most celebrated alumni including Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Harry Bertoia, among others.

“The Knoll Lecture Series on Design offers Cranbrook an exceptional opportunity to engage important international thought leaders with our campus community. The impact on our students and faculty is immeasurable and extends well beyond their time at Cranbrook,” said Susan R. Ewing, the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Director of Cranbrook Academy of Art. “We are grateful to Knoll for their generous support of this annual lecture and for our continuing partnership.”

Andrew Cogan, Chairman and CEO of Knoll Inc., says, “Knoll prides itself on our continued support of design talent. The Knoll Lecture series at Cranbrook honors Florence Knoll and is inseparable from our commitment to work with the world’s preeminent designers. It is our hope that by connecting emerging talent with established artists, designers, and makers – we will continue to foster their growth.”

Knoll operates locations around the world including a manufacturing site in Grand Rapids and Muskegon, Mich. The Knoll headquarters is located in East Greenville, Pennsylvania.

The lecture will be held in deSalle Auditorium at Cranbrook Art Museum. Free, no pre-registration required.