In 1908, after training to become an industrial embroiderer, Lilly Reich began working at the Viennese workshop of Josef Hoffmann. In 1911, she returned to Berlin and met Anna and Hermann Muthesius. In 1912, she became a member of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation). In 1920, she became the first female member of its board of directors. She was also a member of the Freie Gruppe für Farbkunst (independent group for colour art) in the same organisation. In 1914, she collaborated on the interior design of the Haus der Frau (woman’s house) at the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition in Cologne. She managed a studio for interior design, decorative art and fashion in Berlin until 1924. In the same year, she travelled to England and Holland with Ferdinand Kramer to view modern housing estates. Until 1926, she managed a studio for exhibition design and fashion in Frankfurt am Main and worked in the Frankfurt trade fair office as an exhibition designer.
Reich met Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1926 and collaborated closely with him on the design of a flat and other projects for the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition held in Stuttgart in 1928. In 1927, she moved into her own studio and apartment in Berlin. In mid-1928, Mies van der Rohe and Reich were appointed as artistic directors of the German section of the 1929 World Exhibition in Barcelona, probably owing to their successful collaboration on the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition in Stuttgart. In late 1928, Mies van der Rohe began to work on the design for the Tugendhat House in the Czech town of Brno. This was completed in 1930 and, alongside the Barcelona Pavilion, it is considered to be a masterpiece of modern architecture. The interior design for Tugendhat House was created in collaboration with Lilly Reich.
In 1932, Lilly Reich played an important role at the Bauhaus in Dessau and Berlin. In January 1932, the third Bauhaus director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, appointed her as the director of the building/finishing department and the weaving workshop at the Bauhaus Dessau. She also continued to serve in this capacity at the Bauhaus Berlin, where she worked until December 1932.
In 1934, Reich collaborated on the design of the exhibition Deutsches Volk – Deutsche Arbeit (German people – German work) in Berlin. In 1937, Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe were commissioned to design the German Reich exhibition of the German textile and clothing industry in Berlin. This was subsequently displayed in the textile industry section of the German Pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition of 1937. In 1939, she travelled to Chicago and visited Mies van der Rohe there. Following her return to Germany, Reich was conscripted to the military engineering group Organisation Todt (OT). After the war (1945/46), she taught interior design and building theory at Berlin University of the Arts. Reich ran a studio for architecture, design, textiles and fashion in Berlin until her death in 1947.
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin (2003): Bauhaus-Möbel. Eine Legende wird besichtigt, Berlin; Dörhöfer, Kerstin (2004): Pionierinnen in der Architektur. Eine Baugeschichte der Moderne, Tübingen; Fiell, Charlotte und Peter (2012): Design des 20. Jahrhunderts, Cologne, p. 599; Günther, Sonja (1988): Lilly Reich 1885-1947, Stuttgart; Sonja Günther: Die Innenarchitektin, Designerin und Ausstellungsgestalterin Lilly Reich, in: Jürgs, Britta (2002): Vom Salzstreuer bis zum Automobil: Designerinnen, Berlin; Lange, Christiane (2006): Ludwig Mies van der Rohe und Lilly Reich. Möbel und Räume, Ostfildern; McQuaid, Mathilda (1996): Lilly Reich, designer and architect. Department of Architecture and Design, New York; Nerdinger, Winfried (1993): Bauhaus-Moderne im Nationalsozialismus, Munich.