Alfredo Häberli


Argentinean by birth and Swiss by adoption, designer Alfredo Häberli received his education in Zurich and Milan (with Castiglioni, Mari and Munari).
His innovative and unique designs have won him many awards and allowed him to collaborate with important design companies, including Zanotta, for whom he has signed 5 items (1 is still in the catalogue). He has designed installations and everyday objects: “modular” footwear, crockery, bags and clothing. The exhibition “Alfredo Häberli Design Development-SurroundThings” was held at the Design Museum in Zurich (city where he has his studio) and displayed some of his most significant products and projects.

Q. Your first project for Zanotta was Ricreo (in 1997 with Christophe Marchand, no longer in the catalogue), the multifunctional structure that was a desk, bookcase and much more…
A. Yes, we wanted to put ourselves to the test with a very compact object for the office that still had everything needed to work at arm’s length. Our references were the painter’s easel and naturally, great master Bruno Munari’s Abitacolo. The name Ricreo was spontaneous. “Recreation” in the sense of pause and also re-inventing something that already exists, but with new value. Our contacts in the company were Eleonora Zanotta and Daniele Greppi, with whom we established good collaboration.

Q. Then there were table Sirio, piece of furniture Florence and Milord…
A. I believe I did something new at the time with Milord. There were no other lounge chairs with a high back and important design and structure (without being heavy). A part, perhaps, from the piece by the Eames… I designed the piece with three legs, but I thought it might not be understood so I worked on a “sculptural” support with four legs. Then Zanotta asked me to make agile versions on wheels, and this led to the two office chairs Lord and Lady.

Q. In a recent conference, you stated that you like to work over time with companies you share a common goal with. How possible is this? 
A. I would say it is typically Italian and also Argentinean to find a common goal when facing a project. It is important to create a form of collaboration with one’s contact (in this case, a corporate team) that exceeds the standard client-order relationship. Let me explain. Everything works better if there is true support for the project by the parties involved, from choosing the type of project to the materials and finishes. It is the same thing for a home. If you take the time to get to know one another, everything flows better and is more productive. For me, “looking for a compromise” doesn’t have a negative connotation and doesn’t mean renouncing creativity. Working with an industry is already a compromise in itself, I believe… In my mind, this term has a positive meaning involving listening and sharing.

Q. When you design a piece of furniture, do you also imagine what type of individuals will use it? 
A. First I think of what kind of product is missing from the collection. And I study the catalogue for a long time. Then, and only then, can I begin to design. I don’t like “cannibalizing” other shapes in catalogues. Let’s take Zanotta. They are lucky to have several pieces designed, for example, by the great Mollino. What sense would it make to create similar ones? I believe it is better to think of pieces to finish the collection’s “puzzle” to make it more complete, useful and beautiful. As for the reference market, this is me and these are my friends. If something is suitable for my home (with a Scandinavian, warm and modern feeling) and is good enough for the people I spend time with, then that something is worth designing and producing. And it will be successful, even in terms of the market.

(interview with Alfredo Häberli for the online magazine Zanotta Happenings, 2009)

(the products Ricreo, Sirio, Florence, Milord, Lady mentioned in this article have been discontinued)