HOW TO KNOLL
- Scan your environment for materials, tools, books, music, etc. which are not in use.
- Put away everything not in use. If you aren't sure, leave it out.
- Group all 'like' objects.
- Align or square all objects to either the surface they rest on, or the studio itself.
‘Knolling’ is the act of laying out tools in an obsessive but rather beautiful display. It sits in a territory somewhere between museography and practicality, function and aesthetics.
The origins of the word are not old. It was coined by Andrew Kromelow in 1987 who was, at the time, working as a janitor in Frank Gehry’s Santa Monica studio.
Gehry was working on furniture designs for Knoll, the US furniture manufacturer whose reputation was founded on the boxy, modernist designs of Florence Knoll. Perhaps in a gesture of respect to Knoll’s angular designs, perhaps as the result of an obsessive impulse or perhaps just to fill time, Kromelow laid out the tools that weren't being used at that time at right angles to each other and to the edges of the work surfaces a horizontal landscape of objects. It enabled the worker to see all the tools at once and to easily relate sizes and uses, everything seen in relation to everything else. The process was adopted by Tom Sachs, who was working in Gehry’s furniture studio at the same time. And it was Sachs who laid out the rules of Knolling. Illustrated here is a scan of a page from his notebook (1989) in which formalises the process and lays out the rules.
Sachs’ studio mantra was instituted - ABK - ‘Always Be Knolling', a riff on the salesmen’s ‘ABC - Always Be Closing’ recited by Alex Baldwin in the screen adaptation of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. It is an exquisite subversion of the capitalist creed into a sense of creativity in the display of the tools of craft. It is a riposte to the real estate snake-oil sales culture in the form of a celebration of making and order.