In a letter in 2008 to the editors of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians concerning remarks in an article on the staged illumination of Mies van der Rohe’s skeletal frame constructions, the architecture historian Kathleen James-Chakraborty refers to the “linking of Heinrich Tessenow’s Festspielhaus of 1910-12 in Hellerau with the installation for the glass industry that Mies designed (in collaboration with Lilly Reich, whom Petty does not mention) for the Stuttgart Werkbund exhibition in 1927.”1
“(in collaboration with Lilly Reich, whom Petty does not mention)”
(in collaboration with Lilly Reich, whom history so often does not mention, or when then fleetingly and sparingly, and which thus tends to leave Lilly Reich’s oeuvre in the shadows. Not least in the shadows of the staged illumination of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe…….)
Born in Berlin on June 16th 1885 as the second of four children to the engineer Alwin Reich and his wife Ottilie, much of Lilly Reich’s early biography is unknown, or at best unclear. From what is decipherable however one gleans the impression of a relatively comfortable childhood in the then, one presumes, leafy Tempelhofer Vorstadt on the, then, southern edge of Berlin, and where she trained as a Kurbelstickerin, a sewing machine based embroidery technique which, as Magdalena Droste notes, was a very typical Jugendstil practice,2 and thus can, could, should?, be considered as an indication of a progressive influence, and arguably, of a progressive character. Around 1908 Lilly Reich, possibly, travelled to Vienna where she, possibly, worked with Josef Hoffmann in the Wiener Werkstätte; as far as we can ascertain, aside from a later recollection by members of her family, there is no evidence that she did spend time in Vienna. Which doesn’t mean she didn’t. Just that we can’t be certain she did. Much of Lilly Reich’s early biography being as it is, unknown, or at best unclear.
Becomes however a little clearer around 1910: at least in terms of direction if not necessarily detail.
Or put another way; while the precise dates and succession, sequence, of individual events is somewhat shrouded in the mists of time, one can be (relatively) certain that around 1910 Lilly Reich increasingly practised shop window decoration and department store sales floor design: two of the newer, more contemporary, Kunstgewerbe disciplines of the period, or perhaps more accurately, two disciplines the contemporary Kunstgewerbe had deemed in need of reform, renewal, rationalisation, and that not least against the background of the increasingly sophisticated consumer culture of the period and the evolving mass retail and marketing industries that accompanied, encouraged?, forced?, that development.
And two disciplines which brought Lilly Reich into contact with two designers who were to be important in not only the development of her career, but, arguably, in helping shape and inform her understandings of and approach to design: Else Oppler-Legband and Anna Muthesius. The former, one of the leading female applied artists of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, a creative with a career in interior, clothing, exhibition and stage design as well as an educator and who, along with Margarete Junge, was one of the original female members of the Deutsche Werkbund. The latter, wife of Werkbund co-founder Hermann Muthesius, active as a designer and author within the clothing reform movement, as an interior designer; and with whom in 1911 Lilly Reich shared a commission for the furnishing of a Jugendheim, children’s home, in Berlin-Charlottenburg, a commission which saw Reich create, amongst other spaces, a “teachers’ dining room, children’s playroom, kitchen, and carpentry workshop”3, a commission that was without question the largest of her early professional years and a commission which saw her move from the relatively static design of shop windows and shop floors to the more active, interactive, design of interiors.
And a commission Lilly Reich followed up, continued?, in 1912 with a design for the interior of an Arbeiterwohnung, a working class house, featuring a bedroom and combined living/dining room realised in context of the exhibition “Die Frau in Haus und Beruf“; an interior governed by principles of “simplicity, affordability, practicality”, something underscored by the use of pine for the furniture, and where “particular emphasis was placed on good materials, good workmanship, simple shapes and achieving a comfortable overall impression”,4 an interior which we haven’t seen but which however comfortable the impression may have been, clearly didn’t leave a good impression on all, Paul Westheim, for example, noting that “a worker’s and a small middle-class apartment show all the bad habits of the tectonically unskilled female”, adding in context of the Arbeiterwohnung that, “the little impractical comeliness that the designer brings in here is, if not a misjudgment of the whole task, a concealment of weaknesses.”5 For our part a little “impractical comeliness” sounds charming. But as we say, we haven’t seen the objects involved. In addition Lilly Reich contributed two shop interior proposals, one for an urban store and one for a country store, and was, along with Fia Wille and Else Oppler-Legband, co-responsible for the design of the Fine and Decorative Arts section, an exhibition design a contemporary commentator notes featured, “well written, legible, signs, and a simple, well-coordinated, colour scheme”, and was an exhibition design which, “presented itself as a unity”.6 And thus an exhibition that, and as will become clear, can be understood as when not necessarily pivotal, then certainly of central importance in the development of Lilly Reich’s understanding of and approach to trade fair and exhibition design.
In 1912 Lilly Reich joined the Deutsche Werkbund for whom, along with Else Oppler-Legband and Anna Muthesius, she was co-responsible for the organisation and curation of the “Haus der Frau” exhibition hall at the 1914 Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne, a space intended to present that which “has been conceived and realised by women in the field of decorative arts and crafts in the sense of the Werkbund”, and that, “not as competition to the work of men … but as a counterbalance of and a valuable addition to the work of men”.7 In addition Lilly Reich contributed two corridors of shop window displays and a living room design; however, as Matilda McQuaid notes/laments, “it is difficult to determine her design sensibility at the time, since there are no known photographs of the exhibits.”8 As there are none of her of contributions to “Die Frau in Haus und Beruf“. Of her “impractical comeliness”. Or much of her shop window and shop floor designs. And thereby underscoring a general problem in trying to piece together the (hi)story of early 20th century design. And which poses the question as to the (hi)story contemporary photographs will tell of early 21st century design. But we digress.
And then, as so oft in early 20th century biographies, came the Great War, during which time Lilly Reich switched her focus from exhibitions, display windows and interiors to clothing: taking responsibility, along with Lucian Bernhard, for the organisation and management of a Werkbund committee for the clothing industry, as Adelheid Rasche notes,9 the first active, coordinated, interest within the Werkbund in clothing, an interest which included an exhibition of contemporary clothing designs organised by Reich and staged in the Berlin State parliament in March 1915, and an interest on the part of the Werkbund motivated by a desire to develop a “German fashion industry independent of imports”10 through encouraging manufacturers and ateliers, “to create what is self-reliant and thus exemplary, if necessary, based on the existing models”11. Lilly Reich, in many regards leading by example: creating clothing designs, employing a Meisterin to realise them, and turning her Berlin studio into a clothes shop. The start of a formal, professional, association with clothing that Lilly Reich was to continue to actively practice post-Great War, parallel to expanding on her exhibitions, display windows and interiors.
And expanding her role and relevance within the Deutsche Werkbund: in 1920 Lilly Reich was elected to the organisation’s executive committee, as the first female, and in 1922 was appointed to the Committee of the Werkbundhaus, a permanent Deutsche Werkbund exhibition space on the grounds of Frankfurt Trade Fair, an exhibition space conceived to promote the rational, Sachlich, functional, ideals of the Werkbund through presentations of exemplary industrial and craft products, and for which Lilly Reich was responsible for quality control and product display. And thereby responsible for the two key factors in the success, or otherwise, of the venture. In addition Lilly Reich was, along with her Werkbundhaus colleagues, Richard Schulz and Ferdinand Kramer, co-responsible for dressing the display windows, those projection screens of the Werkbund’s ideals onto the streets of Frankfurt, and a further platform via which to pursue the Werkbund’s aim of educating consumers as to what is good in terms of product design, at least in context of the Werkbund’s understandings. And that, lest we forget, at the time when the Neues Frankfurt project was beginning to explore, discuss and promote new, rational, Sachlich, functional, ideas for architecture, urban planning and interior design.
In addition, during her time in Frankfurt Lilly Reich was active as a stand designer in context of the biannual Frankfurt trade fairs, a period which saw her develop and evolve new, Sachlich, reduced, contemporary approaches to trade fair design, to develop and evolve principles of unified spaces and open, formally succinct and terse display formats, formulate new vocabularies for exhibition design, to develop and evolve understandings of how trade fairs communicate(d) with visitors. And thereby to develop and evolve understandings of the role and function of the trade fair in the developing, evolving, economic/commercial and artistic/design landscapes of the 1920s.
And a contribution to advances in trade fair design understandings and practice which, amongst other reasons12, saw Mies van der Rohe propose Lilly Reich for the artistic direction of the furniture, furnishings and household goods exhibition which accompanied the 1927 Weissenhofsiedlung building exhibition in Stuttgart. A post to which Lilly Reich was formally appointed to on April 25th 1927.
Charged with the overall management and design of the exhibition’s 9 halls, save the kitchen presentation in hall 2 and the Stuttgart demonstration kitchen in hall 3, which were the responsibility of Dr. Erna Meyer, a leading protagonist of rationalised household management, and the furniture presentation in hall 8 for which the, then, director of the Stuttgart Kunstgewerbeschule Bernhard Pankok was responsible, and which had a very, very, heavy Stuttgart bias, the central feature of Lilly Reich’s exhibition design was, as one would expect, simplicity and uniformity; or as Karin Kirsch notes, quite aside from a unified typeface in each hall, exhibitors only being allowed in exceptional circumstances to use their own signage, and also banishing exhibitors’ own stands in favour of a standard design, Lilly Reich “painted all the walls white and avoided decorations of any kind – apart from the well-thought-out and strikingly coloured typeface design by Willi Baumeister”.13
A concept that has obvious parallels to the exhibition design created in 1912 for “Die Frau in Haus und Beruf“, and which according to Wilhelm Lotz, writing in the, admittedly, not entirely independent Die Form, gave “the exhibition a framework that could not be thought more reserved nor more favourable”, continuing that “particularly successful are the rooms with textiles, linoleum and plate glass.”14
The foremost room being created by Lilly Reich alone, and that as an informative and instructive example of her use of textiles, particularly curtains, as functional elements of a room, in which context we’d argue the analogy of Mies van der Rohe’s use of solid curtain walls and Reich’s use of textile curtain walls is no analogy, but a further component of their partnership; the latter two rooms being created, as the official exhibition catalogue notes, by, “Lilly Reich, Berlin Mies van der Rohe, Berlin”.15 In that order. One of Mies and Reich’s earliest, and certainly at that point their highest profile and most public, cooperation; a cooperation that was, to judge by contemporary reports, one of the highlights of the furniture, furnishings and household goods exhibition; and a cooperation which history has recorded much more as the work of Mies than Reich, of Mies (in collaboration with Lilly Reich); and thus, paradoxically given that Stuttgart represents the, until then, zenith of Lilly Reich’s career as a designer, the linoleum and plate glass showcases in Stuttgart can be considered the moment the shadow of the staged illumination of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe begins to move over Lilly Reich and her work.
There are numerous paths to approaching a better understanding of Lilly Reich, of Lilly Reich’s career, of Lilly Reich’s contribution to the development of design and design understandings in the 20th century, and we’d recommend you explore as many of them as you can.
One could, for example, explore her contribution to the Deutsche Werkbund, including the necessary analysis of her role in the Deutsche Werkbund following the NSDAP’s seizure of power in 1933; or one could explore her contribution to the development of trade fair design as a professional discipline beyond decoration, something exemplified by her work, for example, in Frankfurt, for the Weissenhofsiedlung exhibition, or for the 1929 World Expo in Barcelona; or one could explore her contribution to developments of understandings of clothing, and for all her understanding of clothing as being something separate from fashion, or as she noted in 1922, “in times past clothing had style, because it sprang from established connections with living and social conditions … It developed slowly and organically. Today’s clothing has no style, it is only fashionable”16; or her contribution to the development of interior design, be that in the domestic space, public space or office space; or her furniture designs and contributions to developments in understandings of, and relationships to, furniture, something which as we noted from the exhibition Female Traces at the Museum of Furniture Studies Stockholm is in urgent need of review.
Yet which ever path one takes, while until circa 1927 you and Lilly Reich are free to wander it yourselves, after 1927 you and Lilly Reich are invariably joined by the figure of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
The exact date and context of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich’s first meeting is lost in the mists of time, is however generally believed to have been around 1924 and in context of Reich’s tenure with the Werkbundhaus in Frankfurt; although given that in the early 1920s both were living and working in Berlin, active in similar milieus, and that in relatively prominent positions, an earlier meeting isn’t impossible. One imagines they certainly must have been aware of one another before 1924.
Similarly unknown is the origins of their cooperation. One of the earliest recorded joint projects is Mies’s Haus Wolf in Gubin, a town straddling the contemporary Polish/German border, a commission received in 1925 from the textile merchant Erich Wolf and which Mies realised as a low, flat-roofed brick construction set on a hill overlooking the river Neisse, one of his earliest “Modernist” constructions, and a project in which Lilly Reich was very closely involved with the interior design, furniture and furnishings.17
And which, assuming it was their first cooperation, began a decade and a bit of interior design, furniture and furnishing cooperations between Mies and Reich, including projects such as Haus Lange and Haus Esters in Krefeld, the Berlin apartment of Wilhelm and Mildred Crous or Villa Tugendhat in Brno. Projects on which Mies and Reich worked very, very closely, feeding of one another, ideas flowing from one to the other, influencing and extending one another as they flowed, projects which must be considered joint projects with Mies and Reich as equal partners, co-authors; or as Christiane Lange sagaciously counsels, in terms of interior design, furniture and furnishings, it is today, “impossible to draw a distinct boundary between the creative contributions of the two.”18
Which doesn’t stop a great many doing exactly that.
And in doing so, joint projects invariably become Mies’s, Lilly Reich becomes an assistant to Mies, possibly responsible for decisions on colours and materials, but if, then little more. And at worst Lilly Reich becomes a “muse” to Mies.
And thereby not only setting Reich even further in Mies’s shadow, but distracting attention from Reich’s wider oeuvre.
Although the closeness of Mies and Reich’s cooperations can, and does, lead to assumptions of a formal business partnership, in reality both maintained their own studios, their own staff and also undertook projects independently of one another. Lilly Reich, for example, and amongst other projects, undertaking the remodelling of the interior of Haus Modlinger in Berlin-Wannsee; creating an office interior, and designing the requisite furniture, for the Berlin bureau of the Kunstseide-Verkaufsbüro GmbH, a conglomeration of artificial silk manufacturers; and also developed further furniture projects, including a thoroughly fascinating and invigorating upholstered steel tube cantilever chair for the Crous’s apartment in Freudenstadt, Schwarzwald, in ca 1937, the so-called LR 36/103 A.19 A work which not only re-imagines the chairs of ancient Greece and Rome in the age of industrial steel tubing, but also deliciously predicts the coming organic forms of, for example, a Finn Juhl or Hans J Wegner, and a work which Christiane Lange opines may have been intended for serial production. And as we all learned from the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot’s exhibition Anton Lorenz: From Avant-Garde to Industry, in the late 1930s Lilly Reich was in advanced stages of discussions with Thonet regarding chairs, including both the upholstered cantilevered 103 A, and an equally interesting and absorbing wicker version which Reich used in her 1939 interior design for the Berlin apartment of one Dr. Schäppi. The late 1930s not however being the best of times to be in discussions about a new furniture programme. Certainly not one in tubular steel.
Following the NSDAP’s seizure of power in 1933 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich had, at least initially, a curious, discordant, relationship with the new powers.
On the one hand antagonistic: not only as two acknowledged and leading proponents and practitioners of Modernism, that most degenerate of arts, but for all in context of Bauhaus: Mies having been Director since 1930, and in 1932 appointing Reich as head of both the Weaving Workshop and the so-called Ausbauabteilung, a combined metal/wood/furniture/interiors department created by Hannes Meyer as part of his reform of the school. And thus it was Mies and Reich who were most closely involved with the, ultimately unsuccessful, negotiations to keep the institute going.
And on the other hand as clients. The pair contributing, for example, exhibition hall designs for the 1934 Deutsches Volk – deutsches Arbeit exhibition and the 1937 Imperial exhibition of the German textile and clothing industry. While Lilly Reich also created the presentation of the German Textile Industry for the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in Paris, an exhibition at which the pavilions of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia stood menacingly, and forewarningly, facing one another.
But principally their relationship with the NSDAP was antagonistic, certainly for Mies, and a situation that became progressively so. Yet while colleagues such as Walter Gropius or Marcel Breuer began leaving Germany, Mies appears to have been very reluctant to follow, and that despite the fact he was receiving offers of work from America.20 Indeed in his 1935 portrait of Mies George Nelson gives no indication that he was planning leaving, much more that, and despite the antagonism to his person and architecture, he seemed to be hoping to awarded building commissions from the NSDAP.21
According to Elaine Hochman,22 Lilly Reich was of an alternative opinion, was very clear from an early stage that Mies’s only option was emigration, a position she continually, doggedly, advanced and a step he undertook in August 1938; as Hochman, potentially somewhat theatrically describes, Mies hurriedly leaving Berlin with just one suitcase and the Gestapo, literally, breathing down his neck.
Following Mies’s emigration Lilly Reich remained in Berlin, both continuing her own work, including the aforementioned furniture projects, realising several interior design commissions and developing a record player for Telefunken, and also managing Mies’s European affairs, before in July 1939 Lilly Reich visited Mies in America.
Why? We no know. Nor who instigated the trip. All we know, understand, is that once there Mies and Reich worked together in Mies’s Chicago office, visited the New York World’s Fair and travelled to Pike Lake Lodge, Wisconsin, where, together with John Barney Rodgers and George Danforth, the plans for the new Illinois Institute of Technology campus were developed; and where the German speaking quartet nearly got themselves arrested as spies.23 Before in late August 1939 Lilly Reich returned to Germany.
Why? Why didn’t she stay in America? Do the math, August 1939, the gates to war were opening in Europe. Why didn’t she stay in America? As Hochman notes, “Mies never asked her, and she, proud and independent would not remain unasked”,24 while Schulze and Windhorst, noting that Mies “cherished nothing in his life more than his independence” presume, and they are very careful in their use of the word presume, that “he felt the need to be free of her and her commanding personality”. They also however note that, “in a significant sense he paid for his freedom; he never found a later collaborator whose artistry so complimented his own”.25 Lilly Reich appears to have paid a much more personal price, and as Hochman comments, was “deeply hurt”,26 if accepting of the inevitability of the turn of events. She knowing and understanding him better than anyone. Then, or now.
And so while Mies set about developing a career in America, arguably that part of his career which today is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s career, that part which is so well illuminated and on which his continuing fame and reputation is established; Lilly Reich struggled through the war years in Germany, initially in Berlin, laterally in Zittau, and all the time continuing to manage Mies’s ongoing European affairs.
Post-war Hans Scharoun brought Lilly Reich in to assist with the rebuilding of Berlin, she taught at Berlin’s Hochschule für bildende Kunst, completed furniture and interior design commissions, was involved in a lighting project with Siemens, and was active in the re-founding, re-constituting, of the Deutsche Werkbund.
But all only too briefly: on December 11th 1947 Lilly Reich died in her native Berlin aged 62.
Much of Lilly Reich’s early career remains unknown, or at best unclear, not least through an almost complete lack of identified, verifiable, documentation. A state of affairs that can be understood by the breakneck speed most any description of her life, even the most authoritative, goes from her possible time in Vienna in 1908 to the Weissenhofsiedlung in 1927: what happened in that intervening neigh on 20 years being summed up in a couple of paragraphs and by couple of events. And that despite being the period in which her understandings of materials, forms, ornamentation, production, proportion, aesthetics, expression, et al, her understandings of and positions to design were developing, maturing and starting to exert an influence. And thus the speed with which the story of that twenty years is told is highly unsatisfactory. And is without question an area deserving of more widespread, detailed, disparate, focussed research, a more accurate (hi)story is, hopefully, out there, hidden in the depths of innumerable archives waiting to be re-discovered. And is, we believe, a story that needs to be re-discovered. And that not just for Lilly Reich, but for the likes of Else Oppler-Legband, Anna Muthesius or Fia Wille; a re-telling of the popular Lilly Reich biography allowing as it does a further context in which an understanding of their work, relevance, can be approached.
Much of Lilly Reich’s later career remains unknown, or at best unclear, not least through shadow cast over it by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. A shadow whose genesis isn’t directly Mies’s fault, but whose persistence, arguably, (definitely), largely, is; that it is less a case of history not mentioning Lilly Reich, as history following Mies van der Rohe’s lead: post-War Mies did little or nothing to engender an understanding of her contribution to his work,27 be that as a designer in context of whom his own designs developed and arose, his understandings of design evolved and matured, or as a trusted advisor who, by all accounts, was both never shy in expressing her opinions and one of the few people Mies actively consulted. Or as Herbert Hirche, who had studied under Mies at Bauhaus and was employed in his Berlin studio, noted: “Mies did nothing without first speaking to Lilly Reich”.28 Had Mies done more, anything, to explain that, to explain who and what Lilly Reich was, he could have done a great deal to dissolve that shadow, and today we would today have a much clearer, properly grounded, understanding of Lilly Reich.
And for all a much clearer, properly grounded, understanding of a career that began in some of those limited spheres of professional creative expression to which women were, graciously, admitted in the early 20th century, and which not only developed and evolved the positions, approaches and understandings encountered and formed in those limited spheres as the social, cultural, technical et al context in which those spheres existed developed and evolved, but carried those developing, evolving, positions, approaches and understandings into much more expansive spheres, and in doing so contributed to wider, global, developments and evolutions in understandings of design. And that, arguably, through nothing more than a combination of determination, keen observation, intelligence, reflection, experimentation, stoicism and talent.
A career from which, on account of the nature of the spheres in which it was practised, and the disruptive destruction of the two wars that crossed it, only precious little has physically survived, but that which has survived, both objects and documentation, describes a career which places Lilly Reich very much at the heart of design in the first half of the 20th century: a career at the heart of developments and evolutions in positions, approaches and understandings of and to exhibition design, trade fair design, interior design, furniture design, and, not unimportantly, a career at the heart of the management, administration, promotion of design. And that at a period when females generally didn’t have careers in design, and certainly not professional careers at the heart of design.
And a career, a biography, which shouldn’t be in the shadow of the staged illumination of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Far less left unmentioned by history.
Happy Birthday Lilly Reich!
2. Magdalena Droste, Lilly Reich: Her career as an artist, in Matilda McQuaid, Lilly Reich: designer and architect, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996 Accessible via www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/278
3. Matilda McQuaid, “Lilly Reich and the Art of Exhibition Design, in Matilda McQuaid, Lilly Reich: designer and architect, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996 page 10 Accessible via www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/278
8. Matilda McQuaid, “Lilly Reich and the Art of Exhibition Design, in Matilda McQuaid, Lilly Reich: designer and architect, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996 page 13 Accessible via www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/278
9. Adelheid Rasche, Peter Jessen, der Berliner Verein Moden-Museum und der Verband der deutschen Mode-Industrie, 1916 bis 1925, Waffen- und Kostümkunde: Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Historische Waffen- und Kostümkunde, 3. F. 37, 1995, pages 65-92
12. The decision to appoint Lilly Reich was ostensibly because Mies wanted someone he could trust to deputise for him in context of the Gewerbehalle exhibition, and Reich was the only person he fully trusted ….. see Karin Kirsch, Die Weissenhofsiedlung, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, 1987 page 31
16. Lilly Reich, Modefragen, Die Form: Zeitschrift für gestaltende Arbeit Vol. 1 Nr 5, 1922, reprinted in Sonja Günther, Lilly Reich 1885 – 1947. Innenarchitektin. Designerin. Ausstellungsgestalterin, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, 1988
17. Although Mies received the commission in 1925, it is unclear when Reich began working on the project, but she certainly did, and that with a degree of naturalness and authority that, for us, implies it wasn’t her first project with Mies…. see, Letter from Lilly Reich to Richard Lisker, February 6th 1927, quoted in Christiane Lange, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe & Lilly Reich. Furniture and Interiors, Hatje Cantz, 2006 page 99
27. The subject is arguably justifying of a post on its own, however, and keeping it brief….as Christiane Lange notes, “there is not a single documented conversation in which he talked about her and their work together”, while Schulze and Windhorst opine that “when he immigrated to the United States he effectively closed her out of his life”, and thereby out of his, and by extrapolation, her own, oeuvre. Something particularly poignant in context of the MoMA New York’s 1947/48 exhibition “Mies van der Rohe“, in the catalogue to which Philip C. Johnson refers to Mies’s “brilliant partner, Lilly Reich, who soon became his equal in this field.” The field in question is exhibition/trade fair design, that field in which at their first cooperation in Stuttgart Reich was an experienced practitioner, an acknowledged expert with a decade and half of professional practice and conceptual development behind her. Mies an absolute novice with little or no experience. And Johnson only refers to the “brilliant” Reich in context of exhibition/trade fair design, all the interiors, furnishings and furniture references being the work of Mies alone. Which Mies knew was a falsification. But clearly did nothing to resolve it. The MoMA exhibition opened on September 16th 1947. Lilly Reich died on December 11th 1947. The MoMA exhibition closed on January 25th 1948. Thus at the very moment Lilly Reich passed away, Mies, Johnson and the MoMA were in the process of writing her out of history. Her corporeal and incorporeal existence ending in parallel. It’s the sort of tragic metaphor only an Émile Zola would feel confident enough to weave into a novel without turning the pathos into kitsch. And while yes, one can argue that architecture projects are rarely the work of the lead architect alone, invariably several individuals are involved, all of whom history forgets: Lilly Reich wasn’t an employee of Mies van der Rohe, but an independent designer, with her own independent studio, with whom he cooperated on an equal basis. Something he should have acknowledged. It would only have taken a couple of sentences.