Alfredo Häberli mixes his Latin-American roots with his Swiss education to create colourful, joyous and innovative everyday objects.
What do you get when you put an Argentinean into Switzerland? You get an exuberant designer who mixes colour, energy and Swiss design sensibilities with élan.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1964, Alfredo Häberli moved to Switzerland in 1977. He graduated with distinction in Industrial Design at the Höhere Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich. Switzerland has been home since and Häberli is now recognised as one of world’s leading industrial and product designers. He has worked with the biggest names in the industry and his innovative designs have won him several awards including the Swiss Industrial Design Prize and the A&W Designer of the Year (2009).
After his studies, Häberli did a collaborative project with the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich. He has continued his relationship with it since, as a curator and/or designer of various exhibitions held at the museum. In1991, Häberli launched his own design studio.
Häberli’s list of designs of everyday products, architecture and books runs into pages. He has been a prolific designer, coming up with creative, celebratory ideas for everything from lighting to furniture to beach towels.
His first major design was a shoe system for Bally (1990), a futuristic design that allowed a break in the shoe to turn it into two different elements. The ‘shoe’ was stopped at the prototype stage after it “caused an uproar”.
In the following years, Häberli designed utilitarian items for several manufacturers like Driade (glasses, vases, jugs), Zanotta (the Sirio table, 1998 and The Zurigo armchair and sofa,1999), Authentics (CD Rack, a basket, soap holder, even a Fly Swatter) and Edra (the Wing daybed and Sofa + Table).
In 2000, Häberli designed the Origo table service which became an instant hit. The colourful dinnerware was designed to “create easy, everyday tableware with a variety of applications”. According to Häberli, “the stacking rings on the bottom of the plates, the facility for fixing cups and bowls to saucers and plates and the decorative elements are real discoveries”. The Origo line has gained an iconic status; it can easily be paired with other tableware without overwhelming them.
This Origo range also marked the beginning of a long relationship with Littala. In 2002, Häberli designed the Essence range of glasses for them. He wanted to create a glass range that could be used “for celebration and daily use, a balance between tradition and modernity”.
In 2003, Häberli designed ‘Kid’s Stuff’ a range of tableware, glasses & cutlery for children (for Littala). This, he says, was one of his favourite projects of the last few years. “Designing for children is not about making a piece of cutlery 20% smaller or merely gluing a cartoon figure on the handle. For me, it is finding the playful element in each component, subliminally integrating a function or making it simple to cut up food with a knife whose teeth are carefully designed to do the job.”
Häberli’s contribution to furniture has also been commendable. He designed the ‘Take A Line For A Walk, lounge chair’ (Moroso, 2003) which was a “lightweight design for a lounge chair with enormous wings”.
His iconic chair, however, is the Jill chair for Vitra (2011), which was inspired by Charles Eames and his plywood-moulding technique of the 1940s. The sculptural quality of the chair moulds itself beautifully to the user. The chair is available in various finishes and bases and now also comes in an upholstered version.
Alfredo Häberli’s touch is also evident in his designs for architecture. His most recent design (and his first for an entire hotel) is for 25Hours Hotel Zurich, a new hotel which combines Häberli’s eclectic and edgy designs with timeless and classic decor that Switzerland is so known for.
Little Häberli touches like curtains which can turn “a big hall into little booths”, button mosaics in the bathroom, and love letters to Zurich used as art installations dot the space, making it the new favourite in town. The Argentinan vibe returns here with colourful carpeting that hides other patterns. Tall beds help you look at them, making the floor an unusual focal point as well.
Design with a soul is what this charming designer aspires to. With that unbeatable combination of Latin-American blood and Swiss sensibility, soul, with a dash of colour and joy, is turning out to be Alfredo Häberli’s signature.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Designer