Mann Niedecken was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 16, 1878.
He showed early talent, studying art as a child, and later was enrolled in
the decorative design program at the School of the Art Institute of
Chicago under Louis Millet, a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in
Paris and founder of the Department of Decorative Design at the Art
Institute of Chicago.
As a young man Niedecken spent time in Europe,
studying under Alphonse Mucha, consulting with Otto Wagner and other
Vienna Secessionists. The influence of the Secessionists is visible in
much of his early work.
Niedecken's philosophy was a comprehensive one
encompassing the collaboration of architect, designer, and client,
determining the "fitness" of the design and materials to the
project. Though brilliant in his own right, Niedecken is probably best
known for the result of his collaboration with Frank Lloyd Wright on the
Robie, Dana, Mayer-May, and Bogk houses.
Much of the custom furniture that
went into Wright's Prairie houses was made by the company formed by
Niedecken and his brother-in-law, John Walbridge. The Niedecken-Walbridge
Company worked with both architect and client on concepts and products,
produced working drawings and renderings for client presentations, and
supervised the manufacture and installation of furnishings. In
addition to the collaboration with Wright, Niedecken worked with other
Prairie School architects such as William Purcell, George Elmslie, Percy
D. Bentley, Spencer and Powers, Tallmadge and Watson, and William