Trix & Robert Haussmann

Trix & Robert Haussmann, 1933 and 1931

Architects, interior designers and product designers, Zurich

The Swiss Con­fed­er­a­tion rec­og­nizes Trix and Robert Hauss­mann for their re­mark­able con­tri­bu­tion to Switzer­land’s ar­chi­tec­tural and de­sign his­tory. Their ded­i­cated and thought­ful chal­leng­ing of aes­thetic con­ven­tions was ahead of its time and de­serves to be re­dis­cov­ered today.
Trix and Robert Hauss­mann may be counted among the most im­por­tant Swiss ar­chi­tects of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. Against the cur­rent back­drop in today’s Switzer­land of a clear neo-mod­ernist trend, it is fas­ci­nat­ing to note how this ar­chi­tect cou­ple were ed­u­cated in, in­flu­enced, and even­tu­ally moved away from a par­tic­u­larly Swiss form of mod­ernism. With the per­spec­tive of time, there is much to be newly dis­cov­ered in their ap­proach: the so-called 'Lehrstücke' (‘teach­ing items’) se­ries, draw­ings, poems, fab­ric col­lec­tions, or build­ings they de­signed, such as the Bou­tique Wein­berg and Shopville in Zurich’s main rail­way sta­tion. Trix and Robert Hauss­mann’s de­signs can be found in a di­ver­sity of forms and which today help to shape our daily lives.
The way in which the sur­pris­ing de­sign of the Da Capo Bar adapts it­self to the orig­i­nal ar­chi­tec­ture of Zurich’s main sta­tion is em­blem­atic of their prac­tice. While the trompe-l’oeil mu­rals in the in­te­rior of the bar im­i­tate the his­toric façade, this im­i­ta­tion clas­si­cism is bro­ken down through bizarre mir­ror el­e­ments, as il­lu­sory means are used to cre­ate a sur­real set­ting. Such de­sign el­e­ments deeply rooted in Man­ner­ism dis­sented not only from mod­ernist doc­trine but also every­thing that had been done up until then in Swiss ar­chi­tec­ture. Far re­moved from the tenets of mod­ernism re­gard­ing the trans­parency of ar­chi­tec­ture, their play­ful de­signs fol­lowed their own form of crit­i­cal Man­ner­ism which man­i­fested it­self both cre­atively and ex­plic­itly in 1980 as 'Manierismo Critico'. In one of their nine model-like 'Lehrstücke', for ex­am­ple, an im­i­ta­tion an­cient col­umn with in­di­vid­ual drawer seg­ments rep­re­sents ‘the dis­rup­tion of the form by the func­tion’.
Since the found­ing of their joint stu­dio All­ge­meine En­twurf­sanstalt (Gen­eral De­sign In­sti­tute) in 1967, they have crit­i­cally and iron­i­cally ques­tioned the rigid doc­trines of ar­chi­tec­tural his­tory. That same year, their first joint work was pro­duced for the 'Chair-Fun' ex­hi­bi­tion of the Swiss Werk­bund. In its re­jec­tion of all func­tion­al­ity, their 'Chair Quar­tet' an­tic­i­pated the crit­i­cal-ironic tone of their later man­i­festo: in ad­di­tion to the frame of an Eames arm­chair con­verted into a 'Maso Chair', three Thonet chairs woven into each other, and an ap­par­ently melt­ing 'Choco Chair', the ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tured a shin­ing anti-chair made of neon tubes which threat­ened to col­lapse under the slight­est load. To this day, Trix and Robert Hauss­mann con­tinue to work on their com­plex body of work, en­com­pass­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, de­sign, ar­chi­tec­tural the­ory and urban plan­ning.
Fredi Fis­chli and Niels Olsen