Monday, January 11

World's Greatest Designers???

I noticed the cover of last month's AD when I was putting it into the recycle pile:

I rarely look inside this magazine; it's good for decorating resources - but even that's been suspect in the past few years since they've "gone Hollywood." I couldn't resist looking at their selection of the best designers of all time even though I knew it would cause my blood to boil. Now, mind you, this AD article wasn't just about the best American designers of the 20th C - this was the WORLD'S GREATEST DESIGNERS OF ALL TIME.

So much for thinking AD would do anything outside their own myopic world. Of course the 20 names they assembled were of the ranks of 20th C decorators they'd fawned over in the past. So why wasn't the article entitled "AD's Favorite Decorators of the 20th C"? I can see Henri Samuel (whose French period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum are a must), and maybe Donald Deskey (whose influence was much more important in terms of industrial design). But the rest of their 20 just won't make it into history books (even though books have been published on a few on the list). They just haven't contributed enough to the canon of built design, interior or otherwise.

I started thinking about who I would include in a list of the greatest designers of all time. In order to be included in my list, the person (or their company) would have had to actually design the physical space as well as the decoration (furnishings, rugs, or fabrics). The resulting work is so strong that it's withstood the test of time, and their names have become synonymous with the style they produced. I could only come up with 8 names off the top of my head:

1. Robert & John Adam - created the first classical revival style:

2. Charles Rennie Mackintosh - one of the prime creators of the Arts & Crafts style:

3. Frank Lloyd Wright and his Prairie Style:

4. Greene & Greene - created their own style within the Arts & Crafts movement:

5. Josef Hoffmann - along with Olbrich, Klimt & Moser, he founded the Vienna Secession:

6. Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann - the most influential designer of Art Deco:

7. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - one of the founding designers of the International Style:

8. Eliel Saarinen & Cranbrook - a designer caught between the modernists and the more traditional design based in the Arts & Crafts movement, at Cranbrook he was able to incorporate both influences:

I couldn't think of any contemporary designers to fill out my list. Are there any additions you'd make?