Alfredo Häberli, 1964
Furniture and product designer, Zurich
The Swiss Confederation is honouring product designer Alfredo Häberli for his wide-ranging work as a designer, entrepreneur and mediator of Swiss design. Alfredo Häberli is a gifted observer. He explores the everyday world to its very roots, searching out solutions to unsatisfactory situations and changing customs, and he shapes what he has discovered into objects that are new to the eye, but familiar to the mind. As he has said himself, ‘Observation is the finest form of thinking.’ On the one hand, his chairs, armchairs and sets of glasses are formally skilful and stylistically assured. On the other, his objects have a refinement that often only becomes evident at second glance or when they are being used. The teapot designed for the Danish manufacturer Georg Jensen, for example, catches the strainer in its neck at the end of the desired brewing time, so that tea does not drip onto the table as usually happens when a tea strainer is removed.
Alfredo Häberli was born to Swiss parents in Argentina and first came to Switzerland with them at the age of 13. In his work and personality, he combines Helvetian craftsmanship with a southern lifestyle. His designs breathe qualities of lightness and dynamism. Shapes that trigger associations, delicate constructions and a reduced use of materials give his products their lightness, and slanting lines and tapering volumes give them their dynamism. Alfredo Häberli’s objects have such a natural and convincing appearance that it is easy to overlook how much laborious effort, perseverance and expertise in the history of design are needed, in addition to the creativeness applied, to arrive at solutions like this – solutions that have been purchased in large quantities for many years and are already regarded as steady long-term sellers.
Alfredo Häberli’s career has been shaped by long and fruitful collaboration with various manufacturers of furniture and home accessories. The companies were mainly well-known Italian labels during the early part of his career, starting in the 1990s, but since 2000 Scandinavian companies have also featured increasingly. In Switzerland, Alfredo Häberli has collaborated with the furniture produce Pfister since 2009 as the curator of a new young collection, ‘Atelier Pfister’. This has enabled him to open the door for various younger Swiss designers to produce their first serially manufactured design objects. In 2012, he completed the extensive interior decoration of the 25hours hotel in west Zurich. Häberli’s designs are increasingly being recognized internationally, with collaboration with the Australian cosmetics manufacturer Aesop and the Majorcan shoe manufacturer Camper, for example – for whom he has designed not only shoes, but also more than twenty boutiques in cities such as Malaga, Moscow, Tokyo and Brisbane. The designer and his work have been featured in specialist journals and in the public media all over the world. In 2006, he was Guest of Honour at the Design Biennale in Kortrijk, Belgium. Alfredo Häberli thus plays an active role not only as a successful and award-winning designer and interior designer, but also as an ambassador for design skill from Switzerland.