Lilly Reich (16 June 1885 – 14 December 1947) was a German modernist designer. She was a close collaborator with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for more than ten years in the late 1920s and '30s.
Lilly Reich was a figure in the early Modern Movement in architecture. She became famous after her death because of her connection with one of the most famous architects in the 20th century.
Reich was born in Berlin on 16 June 1885. In 1908, she put her embroidery training to use when she went to Vienna to work for the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) of Josef Hoffmann, a visual arts production company of designers, artists, and architects. She returned to Berlin by 1911. There she began to design furniture and clothing. She also worked as a shop window decorator at this time. The following year she joined the Deutscher Werkbund, or German Work Federation, a group similar to the Vienna Workshop whose purpose was to help improve competitiveness of German companies in the global market. That year she designed a sample working-class flat in the Berlin Gewerkschaftshaus, or Trade Union House. It received much praise for the clarity and functionalism of the furnishings. She contributed work to the Werkbund exhibition in Cologne in 1914. In 1920, Lilly became the first woman elected to the governing board of the Deutscher Werkbund.
From 1924 to 1926, she worked at the Messeamt, or Trade Fair Office, in Frankfurt am Main. There, she was in charge of organizing and designing trade fairs. It was there that she met Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, vice president of the Deutscher Werkbund. This sparked a period of involvement of furniture for van der Rohe as the two collaborated on many projects together. In 1927, the two worked on "Die Wohnung" in Stuttgart for the Werkbund. She designed many interiors for this exhibition including "Wohnraum in Spiegelglas" ("living space in mirror glass"). During her career she designed store windows, exhibition displays, and fashion. In 1929 she became the artistic director for the German contribution to the Barcelona World Exposition, where van der Rohe designed his world-famous pavilion. This is where the famous Barcelona chair made its first appearance. This pavilion was considered the highlight of their design efforts.
In 1932, Reich was asked by van der Rohe to teach at the Bauhaus and direct the interior design workshop. The Bauhaus was closed shortly after in 1933 by the Nazis who saw their work as "degenerate art, probably influenced by Jews."
She taught at the Universität der Künste of Berlin after the Second World War, but not for long because she became ill and had to resign. She died a few years later in 1947 in Berlin.