The Power of Two: Famous creative partnerships

Charles and Ray Eames
Eames House, Pacific Palisades, California. Photo: Taschen
Florence and Hans Knoll
Knoll office
Knoll office design. Photo: Knoll
Rogers Piano
Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. Photo: RPBW
Barber osgerby De La Warr
Barber and Osgerby seating at the De La Warr Pavilion, East Sussex. Photo: Barber & Osgerby
barber and osgerby
Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. Photo: Barber & Osgerby

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together a list of famous creative partnerships that demonstrate the power of two. Whether working in architecture or design, these duos give new meaning to the proverbial ‘relationship goals’.

Charles and Ray Eames
The ultimate design power couple had a playful and optimistic approach to life, which helped establish them as the preeminent designers of the 20th century. They first started collaborating in the 1940s with moulded plywood chairs and went on to design classic pieces no modernist house worth its salt is seen without: the ‘DSR’ chair and ‘Lounge’ chair. On love, perhaps Charles’ pronouncement ‘Who ever said that pleasure wasn’t functional?’ is most elucidating. Who indeed, Charles?

Florence and Hans Knoll
When Hans Knoll moved stateside from Germany to set up his furniture company in 1938, he found a professional and romantic partner in Florence Margaret Schust, who had worked under big hitters like Eero Saarinen, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer. With a Bauhausian commitment to quality mass production and an eye for good design, the two made canny moves like acquiring the rights to Mies’ ‘Barcelona’ series and heralding an overhaul in office design according to Florence’s maxim: ‘Good design is good business’.

Philip Johnson and David Whitney
How do you stick it out for 45 years? American architect Philip Johnson would have said, ‘The eye, that’s really the whole thing, the eye. We’ve always totally agreed on everything in matters of taste.’ His life partner, curator David Whitney, however, thought otherwise: ‘He’d be at the Paleys’ and I’d be at the Judson Church at a dance performance…. [That’s] one of the reasons it worked. – I was always totally independent.’ Either way, Whitney’s aesthetic sensibilities are apparent throughout ‘The Glass House’, Johnson’s International Style masterstroke, where works from pals like Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg form part of the permanent collection.

Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano
Proof that sometimes short is sweet when it comes to relationships, the now-celebrated names of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano created something truly extraordinary when they briefly put their heads together on the design of the Pompidou Centre in 1971. Both men were little-known at the time but their signature inside-out design, revolutionary at the time, kick-started their careers, which count museums, skyscrapers and major public buildings in their oeuvres. We are particularly touched by Rogers’ thoughts on the partnership: “His poet’s soul brought us through”.

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby
The auspicious meeting of Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby took place in 1992 when the two were architecture students at the Royal College of Art. Eschewing architecture careers, the two established their design studio, Barber & Osgerby, in 1996, initially working out of Barber’s flat in Trellick Tower. Their contribution to contemporary British design incorporates their signature ‘Loop’ chair, the 2012 London Olympics torch and seating for the restored modernist classic, the 1935 De La Warr Pavilion.

Matt Gibberd and Faye Toogood
We’d be remiss not to mention the marriage of one of our founders, Matt Gibberd, to acclaimed British designer Faye Toogood. The pair met while working at ‘The World of Interiors’ magazine in 2000, but have since established their own ventures: Toogood’s design studio offers a full creative direction and interior design service, and puts out modern classics like the ‘Spade’ chair, while Gibberd sells Britain’s finest homes, if we do say so ourselves.

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