Reconceived Classics: FSB 1144

Jasper Morrison’s first commission for industry


There is something immediately familiar and trustworthy about his designs, which, though pared down to the formally essential, are not in any sense coldly minimalist. Surely no other contemporary furniture and product designer would be capable of according objects a topicality that transcends trends and fads like the Briton Jasper Morrison. His approach to design, for which he has coined the term “super normal”, evolved partly through his collaboration with FSB. The premium hardware manufacturer launched Morrison’s re-interpretation of a 1950s’ design by Johannes Potente in 1990. The FSB 1144 lever handle became a bestseller overnight and marked the point of departure for an entire product collection that now ranks amongst the icons of industrial design.

In the late 1980s, the young British designer Jasper Morrison, who had just set up his own studio in London, was contracted to revamp models by Johannes Potente that had become a little dated – including the latter’s FSB 1020 – or, by extension, to come up with a re-interpretation of Potente’s classic moulded-to-the-hand design. Morrison adopted the handle’s shape as the basis for a new design with a flaring grip that drew its inspiration from traditional carriage-door handles. The way his design cited both the Potente models and a “super-normal” everyday commodity such as a carriage-door handle lent it something reassuringly familiar from the very outset.

The FSB 1144 model was first exhibited at the International Ironmongery Fair in Cologne in the spring of 1990 – in Aluminium at Jasper Morrison’s express request owing to the designer being particularly partial to the material’s natural silvery appearance. As well as a door handle, the product collection Morrison originally developed also comprised a door knob, a handle for narrow- frame doors, a window handle, floor- and wall-mounted door stops, a cabinet knob and a hat and coat hook. Jasper Morrison gave the door handle two countenances: the front edge is wedge-shaped whilst the grip’s flat top broadens out towards its rounded end. One or the other face will come into view as in a flip image depending on the beholder’s perspective. The design’s overall impact is nonetheless one of harmony due to a series of adroitly intermeshing planes and lines that seamlessly pass over into one another, thus injecting a great sense of fluidity into the handle. Jasper Morrison had discarded the asymmetrical moulded-to-the-hand design from the 1950s in favour of a more symmetrical design that is non-handed. He can thus be said to have simplified FSB 1144 relative to its period prototype both in production engineering terms and as regards storage and utilisation criteria.

Success was not long coming for the FSB 1144 range: it won the North Rhine- Westphalia Federal State Prize in 1991 and the National Prize for Product Design the following year, and 1992 also saw the Hanover Industrial Forum vote it one of the ten best products of the year.

When asked, during an interview filmed when his FSB 1144 model was originated, what in his view constituted good design, Jasper Morrison answered: “Two things are important: comfortable handling and intuitive utilisation.” The shape of his door handle is notable for the way it appeals to our eyes and hands in equal measure. It clearly indicates that it is a hand tool with which to open doors – nothing more and certainly nothing less. And that is precisely what lies behind the unbroken success of the FSB 1144 model, which is now available in Aluminium and Stainless Steel. The product collection currently embraces a door lever and window handle (both also as plugin variants), a door knob and a frame-door lever.

The spectrum of possible variants is rendered vast by the most diverse of surface-refinement options: Colour may, if so wished, enter the equation where models in Aluminium are concerned, courtesy of the powder-coating technique. There are also a number of anodised colours based on velvety matt Aluminium finishes with a very distinctive sheen. The variant in Polished Stainless Steel, to conclude, stands as a classy, ecologically sound alternative to chromium-plated finishes.

Lowdown on FSB
FSB has been focusing on perfection for more than 140 years now and is a byword the world over for perfectly engineered hardware solutions, of the highest quality both visually and functionally, for doors and windows and barrier-free sanitary fit-outs. 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