Material Tendencies: Alfredo Häberli
Anita Hackethal speaks to Alfredo Häberli about preferred materials, digital libraries and the impact of technology on his work.
Alfredo Häberli was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1964. He moved to Switzerland in 1977 and graduated 1991 with distinction in Industrial Design at the Höhere Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich. Today, he is an internationally established designer based in Zurich and is working for some of the leading companies of the international design industry such as Alias, BD Barcelona, BMW, Camper, FSB, Georg Jensen, Iittala, Kvadrat, Luceplan, Moroso, Schiffini and Vitra. He manages to unite tradition with innovation, joy and energy in his designs and his work is strongly influenced by his early childhood in Argentina as well as his curiousness and studies in everyday life. The results are works with a strong expression and emotionality.
Alfredo Häberli’s work and designs have been shown in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe and he has received many awards for his work during the past 16 years. A personal monograph «Alfredo Häberli – Sketching My Own Landscape» was published by Frame Publishers in Amsterdam and in October 2006 he was guest of honour at the 20th Biennale of Design in Kortrijk, Belgium. In this context the book «Alfredo Häberli Design Live» with photos of some of Switzerlands most influential Artists, interpreting Alfredo Häberlis work, was released and published by Birkhäuser.
With his own retrospective exhibition «SurroundThings» in 2008 at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, for which he was responsible for numerous exhibitions since 1988, a personal dream came true. In 2009 he was awarded by A&W magazine (Architektur & Wohnen) as the «Designer of the Year 2009» and honoured with a monograph exhibition on the occasion of the international furniture fair – imm cologne. Alfredo Häberli has been curating «Atelier Pfister – Neues Schweizer Design» by Pfister AG since 2009.
Alfredo Häberli’s most extensive project to date, the 25hours Hotel Zurich West, was inaugurated in November 2012. He was responsible for the overall interior decoration and designed more than 60 products for the hotel. In 2014 Alfredo Häberli received the prestigious Swiss Grand Prix of Design from the Swiss Federal Office of Culture.
Anita Hackethal, Architonic: Having shared your thoughts on the need for more sensitivity and tactility in this extremely fast, digital world of ours, which single material would you elect to work with if you could choose only one?
Alfredo Häberli: Wood is one of the most fantastic materials ever. It is an ecological material, as it grows again. With wood you can do whatever you want. You can make bowls, cutlery, a chair… You can build a house! Also, I like the natural patina that wood receives, being outdoors or indoors.
Do you use digital libraries?
Yes, I do use it, but I think it is important to know the background and not only look at the image. I have 40 metre of books. I know every page, every image, and I know the history very well. If I read something, I know it afterwards. If I just look at it, I will not remember, because it is too fast and too superficial, in a way.
Does evolving technology affect your work?
It does help throughout the whole process. But the first steps are still the same for me. The sketching, the model-making, the prototypes. It is a slow process until you really have a very clear idea. I think one of the most beautiful moments is when you are in an empty space with a white piece of canvas and you need to do something with it. For me, it is still like searching for ideas on the kitchen table.