Reconceived Classics: FSB 1147

Quintessential door handle after a blueprint by Ludwig Wittgenstein


Ludwig Wittgenstein was one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century and made important contributions to the philosophy of logic, language and consciousness. He first applied himself to architecture when “Palais Wittgenstein”, his sister's residence in Vienna, was fitted out in the mid1920s. Wittgenstein authored a veritable icon of door-handle design in the process. His minimalist creation, comprising a brass rod with a spherical tip, has been pared down to bare essentials and is enthrallingly clean-lined. The repertoire of premium hardware makers FSB from Brakel now includes an updated interpretation of the handle in the form of its FSB 1147 model, whilst the handle’s basic outlines also define the visual idiom adopted by the company. FSB has a process of cooperation begun with the ground-breaking communication designer Otl Aicher in the mid-1980s to thank for a striking logo that was likewise inspired by the great philosopher’s door handle.

In the course of designing a house for his sister Margarete Stonborough Wittgenstein in the style of the radically minimalist Viennese modernism that held sway in the latter half of the 1920s, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein even came up with ideas for features such as the building’s door handles himself. To this end, he took a section of tubular brass, bent it through 90 degrees and finished it off with a spherical tip. This exercise in reductionism has inspired numerous similar designs since and is looked upon as the archetypal lever handle. The graphic designer Otl Aicher derived inspiration from Wittgenstein’s door handle when devising FSB’s inimitable logo in the mid-1980s. The logo was intended to be recognisable as a door handle at a glance. Aicher was evidently familiar with Wittgenstein’s handle. One day, he cut its shape out of a piece of cardboard and placed it on a sheet of white paper – that was the day FSB’s utterly distinctive logo was born.

Friedrich von Borries mentions FSB’s mentor Otl Aicher in his edition suhrkamp book entitled Weltenentwerfen – Eine politische Designtheorie (“Designing Worlds – A Political Theory of Design”). He quotes from the work analog und digital in which Aicher dubs Wittgenstein’s creation the “quintessential door handle” and Wittgenstein himself a “pioneer” (Aicher 1991, p. 111). Von Borries goes on to ponder the link between philosophy and designing a handle: “It is possible to rigorously and logically contemplate the essence of the world whilst simultaneously devoting all one’s attention and efforts to conceiving a door handle. Anyone thinking about the world has also got to consider the door handle and, assuming this happens, any questions posed about the world will also be answered in the handle. The part always presages the whole, referencing the world in its every pore. Good design shapes the world rather than subjugating it – at both the micro and the macro level.”

The FSB 1147 range is now so broad as to embrace lever/lever sets for both standard and narrow-stile doors, plug-in handles for windows and doors, conventional window handles, lifting/sliding door handles, lever/knob sets for narrow-stile doors, glass-door fittings and bathroom sets. All models are available in Aluminium and Stainless Steel.

Our philosopher’s reductionist creation has found application in, among other places, the Nuremberg Fair Centre, the Schlosserhof in Stuttgart or the opera house in Chemnitz. The new bauhaus museum weimar planned by Berlin-based architect Heike Hanada is likewise home to the FSB 1147 model – though in a customised variant. Hanada fitted the outsize doors in her new building with an XL version of the Wittgenstein door handle in a smooth though non-artificially refined “Crude Aluminium Tumble-Ground” finish. The variant selected replicates the museum’s rough-and-ready factory-hall character in every respect, the aluminium’s bright silvery looks being very much in unison with the homogeneous steel doors and their rough concrete frames.

About FSB
FSB has been focusing on perfection for more than 140 years now and is a byword the world over for visually and functionally peerless hardware solutions for doors and windows and for barrier-free sanitary fit-outs of the highest order. Architects and builders’ clients relish reaching out for products from Brakel in recognition of FSB’s great design expertise and profound understanding of the requirements of modern construction. Everything in any way associated with handle culture in built spaces is catered to from a single source.

Franz Schneider
Brakel GmbH + Co KG

Anne Levy
Nieheimer Straße 38
33034 Brakel
Telefon: +49 5272 608-105