Design | Swiss Design Bank

Blattmann Metallwarenfabrik AG, MEWA, Kettle TECA, 1949 /
Alfred Roth, Aluminium Chair, 1933 / Wilhelm Kienzle, Cactus Watering Can
Photo FX Jaggy + U Romito


100 Years of Swiss Design
Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot
Zürich | Switzerland
27th September 2014 > 8th February 2015


It’s somehow unsurprising to find that, safe in its vaults, Switzerland has the largest collection of Swiss design in the world. While the vast majority of the 800 items in 100 Years of Swiss Design, a new exhibition opening this month at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, are drawn from the bank of 500,000 pieces the museum has built up over its 140-year history, a few items are on loan from elsewhere.

This exhibition will be the first at the Schaudepot (Open Collections) – in the New Toni-Areal, a recently converted former milk processing plant – where the museum’s poster, design, applied arts and graphics archives – previously distributed in separate locations around the Zürich – have come together under one roof. But it’s not only the location which is new. With a total of 26% additional space, the core of the assembled archive is a free-standing, high bay, storage facility – a six-metre-high shelving system – housing chairs, lamps, posters, cupboards and ceramics, which is being opened to the public for daily tours on specific themes, and where they can examine items in the collection at close quarters, for the first time. The museum’s globally-important assets have also been made accessible via the eMuseum site, where the pictures in the database are reproduced as a digital catalogue, exclusively illustrating the collection stock – and the service has been made available free of charge.

While Switzerland is renowned as an expensive country to visit, until the end of September when prices are set to rise, the adult entrance fee at the Museum is only 12 Swiss Francs (CHF) / just under £8, and an annual pass is available for 50 CHF / £33, which is a pretty good deal. There’s no entry fee for children under 12 years.


Sigg AG, Hot Water Bottle with Stopper 1925 + 1968
Photo FX Jaggy + U Romito

Willy Guhl, Beach Chair, 1954
Photo FX Jaggy

Oskar Zieta, Plopp, 2007 / Frédéric Dedelley, Melancholic Diamond, 2007
Photo U Romito

Wisa-Gloria AG, Three Wheeler, 1970,
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection

Photo FX Jaggy + U Romito


In 1949, the multi-talented Swiss architect, artist, painter, typeface designer, industrial designer and graphic designer, who at one time, served on the Zürich City Council, and was later elected to the Swiss National Parliament, Max Bill (1908 > 1994), singled out the Feller company’s light switch, ubiquitous throughout Switzerland, as ‘perhaps the ultimate form for a light switch.’ An image of the switch is being used on the publicity material for the exhibition, overlaid by a photograph of Willy Guhl’s classic Beach chair, for Eternit, 1954. Manufactured by companies like Therma, Embru, Langenthal, Horgen-Glarus, Sigg and Mammut, many more examples of often everyday products, typifying the high quality, functionality and charm of Swiss design, such as Hans Coray’s Landi chair and the USM Haller system are included in the 100 Years of Swiss Design exhibition.

Swiss book design is also one of country’s greatest assets, and later this month, or in early October (German edition. English language edition, probably December) the inimitable Lars Müller Publishers are bringing out 100 Years of Swiss Design, edited by the Müseum für Gestaltung Zürich, Christian Brändle, Renate Menzi and Arthur Rüegg. With 700 pictures and featuring 100 key works from the Museum’s collection, it presents the cream of the country’s design in chronological order – from their regional roots, at the beginning of the 20th century, to those dreamed up and produced for today’s global market. Also from Lars Müller Publishers, 100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design, a companion to the above, is already out in Europe (German and English editions), and will be available in the US and Canada at the end of September, 2014.


Heller drittel, Max Bill,1959 > 69
Auction estimate CHF 25,000 > 30,000 / £16,500 > 20,000


Max Bill, who was a student at the Bauhaus in Dessau between (1927 > 1928) worked closely with masters Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy- Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer, as well as his fellow Swiss, Paul Klee. Eminently bankable, his paintings and sculptures are well-represented in Christie’s 30th Swiss Art Auction in Zürich on September 22nd. It was László Moholy-Nagy, who had introduced Bill to the work of the De Stijl group, especially that of Mondrian, whom Bill visited in Paris, but the work of other De Stijl members, Georges Vantongerloo and Theo Doesburg were to make a greater impression upon him. Similarly based on geometric composition, Fritz Glarner, whose work is also included in the sale, owes much to influences drawn from De Stijl.

All products illustrated, except Will Guhl Beach Chair, from Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. All photos © ZHdK.
Painting image courtesy of Christie’s


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