Franz Schneider Brakel

A gripping story that’s none too short

Global brand from the eastern Westphalian sticks

The FSB acronym is a byword the world over for visually and functionally top-quality system solutions for doors and windows – and a lot more besides. The specialist expertise we have amassed in over 135 years in business has, however, given rise to more than “just” premium door handles. Another reason architects and builders’ clients favour products from Brakel is that we have an advanced understanding of the requirements of modern Civic/Commercial construction. Everything that has anything at all to do with handle culture in built spaces - be it classic hardware, our barrier-free ErgoSystem® or electronic access management - is catered to from a single source.

We are likewise a pioneer in the spheres of “green building” and environmental compatibility; we have produced Environmental Declarations pursuant to EN 15804 for specific materials and ranges that apply to our entire stock range of more than 25,000 different items. We see sustainability as being synonymous in no small measure with enduring dependability. That our products outperform the relevant standards is demonstrated both by corresponding tests and trials as well as in day-to-day use. Time to cast a quick glance into the past and present of FSB. Regular visitors will discover what the future holds in store elsewhere – through our news updates on new items for instance.

Design for doors, windows – and museums

FSB was originally located not in B for Brakel but in Iserlohn. This is where Franz Schneider set up shop in 1881 as a makers of antique-style cabinet fittings and sober devotional items in brass. Both were exceedingly modern at the time – and our founder was good at catering to prevailing trends: by the turn of the century his product offering already filled a handy catalogue. 1909 saw the company’s domicile move from a provincial town in the Sauerland to one in eastern Westphalia. Frank Schneider promptly added B for Brakel to his initials and the proud FSB brand was born. Then as now, a key focus of its trade concerned classic hardware for doors and windows.

Architecture brands began to emerge during West Germany’s “economic miracle” of the 1950s. Design and architecture, which had gone into retreat with the closure of the Bauhaus and the turmoil of war, were now substantively revived. Great names such as Ray and Charles Eames provided inspiration with their functional furniture designs. The Dane Arne Jacobsen designed classics like the stackable “Series 7” chair and buildings in the spirit of the Bauhaus. Dieter Rams started pulling the (design) strings at Braun and authored products whose styling has now become the blueprint for products by a company with an apple in its logo.

The debate about “good form” was joined in Brakel too, decisively so in the decade between 1953 and 1963: Johannes Potente created his seminal moulded-to-the-hand style at FSB, a style that is still applicable today and which inspired Otl Aicher to draw up his “Four-Point Guide to Good Grip”. Specialists and the general public caught on to Johannes Potente’s unsung industrial design in a big way after his death, when his work joined important collections of models such as the permanent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

At the same time as steadily growing our design excellence, we have never ceased refining our manufacturing processes either: an ongoing policy of modernising and optimising production technologies and routines has colluded with our predilection for “feisty” materials like fine-grade steel, aluminium, brass and bronze to ensure our products last far longer than ought to be to our liking from a business economics point of view.

Publishers with a sideline in door handles

We again took our future into our own hands in the 1980s: under the intellectual guidance of designer-cum-mentor Otl Aicher, we subjected our activities to critical analysis and in the process came up with a series of guiding principles that are still valid today. A fundamentally new design culture was born that, as well as addressing itself to the company’s origins and tradition, is also rooted in the cultural history of handles in particular and the concept of holding things in general.

Mr Aicher devised his “Four-Point Guide to Good Grip” for us, which states that any good handle will feature a thumbrest, a forefinger furrow, support for the palm and sufficient gripping bulk. The process of critical analysis and re-orientation was accompanied by an edition of books that is now part of the standard repertoire at colleges running design or economic studies courses.

Otl Aicher created the FSB logo now so familiar to friends of handle culture out of a stylised handle. His source of inspiration was a cleverly unfussy handle that the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had designed for the house of his sister in Vienna. “Only when used does the rod become a lever” is how Wittgenstein explained his simplicity-driven design. This was a kind of ideal handle for Aicher. He saw it not as the optimum hand shape but as a handle for all possible types of holding operations. It is the sum of all handles, the absolute quintessence. Just the thing for our logo as we see it.

Names wanted (but not for dropping)

Our legendary Door Handles Workshop held at Brakel in 1986 and attended by celebrities such as Mario Botta, Peter Eisenman, Hans Hollein, Alessandro Mendini and Dieter Rams sent out quite a few shock waves.

Even those who had previously managed to grasp the world as existing without FSB were soon cognisant with the workshop’s findings. Overnight, a product that had long been considered of little interest was turned into a design theme by one of the first “name design” projects, one to which noted architects and designers were thenceforth to turn with great gusto.

Grasping architecture

Drawing on the art nouveau philosophy that views a house and its interior furnishings as an all-encompassing work of art, FSB advocates coherence when putting architectural and stylistic principles to effect within a building. Door handles are architecture “in miniature” that reflect their authors’ approach to design in both form and function. We feel that decisions for or against a given door handle model always need to be taken bearing the surrounding architecture in mind. A space’s idiom, after all, articulates itself in compressed form in a handle’s design. Either the handle becomes a harmonious part of the whole, or it quite deliberately creates a point of contrast.

Testifying to FSB’s high degree of architectural proficiency is the fact that the company works closely with architects in coming up with perfectly matching hardware solutions that are simultaneously of the highest order in terms of their design and materials engineering – or else we actually develop them exclusively for the building in question ourselves.
Not only do we register architectural trends, we actively set them and service them to perfection, moreover: amongst the most recent bestsellers from Brakel are flush-fitting hardware, window handles adapted to narrow profiles, straight-cornered roses with crisply-defined edging, new handle designs by internationally noted designers and our satin-matt “Blasted Aluminium Colour Anodised” finish. Outstanding inner values are, for instance, displayed by non-handed FSB ASL® handle sets incorporating innovative adaptor technology.

The extensive range of mortice locks manufactured by SSF, FSB’s Saxon subsidiary, may not be from Brakel, but they boast a quality every bit as compelling. Under the slogan “Lock + fitting from a single source”, FSB has, in the interests of optimised technical harmonisation, re-united components that had once been one but were split in two in the course of industrialisation.

Living in barrier-free comfort with the ErgoSystem®

The accessing of architecture does not stop at the door for FSB. An ageing society needs solutions that make “actual spaces” easier to handle. “Living in barrier-free comfort” is an ambitious claim our multiple design-prize-winning ErgoSystem® certainly lives up to. A phenomenon that may now have been generally accepted, and for which terms such as “universal design”, “age-sensitive residential schemes” or “best agers” are used, necessitated true pioneering work in the early years of the new millennium.

We were one of the first to translate foreseeable demographic changes into a fully-fledged handhold-system and fitment concept that, as so often with us, broke with tradition and ploughed its own furrow where design, function and ergonomics were concerned.
ErgoSystem® E300 (E = Stainless Steel) with an unrivalled system depth of over 400 products is accompanied by ErgoSystem® A100 (A = Aluminium). Uniting the two system variants is the fundamental notion, unique to the marketplace, of a diagonally aligned, oval grip cross-section that rigorously observes the ergonomics of good grip to deliver unparalleled convenience and dependable support. ErgoSystem® A100 brings added gripping space to this design concept with the aid of brackets set at an angle of 45° to the wall and can be custom-adapted to specific interiors and settings by dint of its variable colour constellations.

A-Flex constitutes a well-conceived means of demand-responsively fitting out spaces with components from the ErgoSystem® range so as to cater to the changing needs of guests and patients. Outlay is significantly lower, since spaces are merely fitted with an A-Flex bearer plate, to which drop-down support rails and foldaway shower seats can be attached as and when required.
ErgoSystem’s unique diagonally oval grip cross-section additionally comes into its own in the form of dimensionally customised handrails, compellingly safe and convenient to hold, for corridors or staircases.