Reich, Lilly (1885–1947) By Cesare, Carla
Lilly Reich was a German-born designer who created interiors, displays, and exhibitions in the early to mid-20th century. She was active in the Deutscher Werkbund and in the Bauhaus, and was the first female architect to be given a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1996. Reich’s career as a female designer has been said by critic Beatriz Colomina to be an example of the collaborative nature of architecture in which women have often played an unspoken role.
Reich was one of the few female designers to have played a leading role in the early 20th century, yet she has gained little academic renown. As is common for female designers of the time they are often known in relation to their work with more prominent male architects or designers; for Reich, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was both a personal and professional partner. Reich, who came from a wealthy manufacturing family, studied in 1908 at the Wiener Werkstätte and then in 1910 at the Höhere Fachschule für Dekorationskunst in Berlin. Like many women of the period she focused on textiles, needlework, and fashion as well as set design and display.