Let's talk about design : Willy Guhl and the fibrocement revolution

A pioneer of Swiss industrial design, Willy Guhl left us a legacy of iconic furniture, using new materials. Forms reduced to the essentials, purity of design, an optimized design that will mark the history of furniture.

Son of a carpenter, Willy Guhl was born in 1915 in Switzerland. He trained in cabinetmaking at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich and opened his own workshop in 1939. In 1941, he taught interior design at the same school.

In 1945, with the end of the Second World War, the major reconstruction programs arrived, established by the housing assistance institution. Willy Guhl will be called upon to participate in order to produce simple furniture. If today the design appears as something a little elitist, in those years it is not so. Furniture is a necessity and designers are literally at the service of the people.

From this need to produce furniture in series are born many researches on the materials allowing new modes of construction as well in the field of the architecture as in the design. What we remember from this period is the exploration of new possibilities given by plastic, fiberglass or even molded wood. At the end of the 1940s, Willy Guhl was the first to use scobalit in the creation of a shell chair.

In 1951, the firm Eternit AG, known for its innovative eponymous material, asked Willy Guhl to work on new plant containers. Eternit lends itself perfectly to this exercise with its fibrous texture resistant to climatic variations and traction. Willy Guhl pointed out that “no construction material used so finely gives as much stability as Eternit”.

His research strongly stimulated the designer who would find new construction techniques leading to new forms such as the Elephant Ear planter and the famous Diabolo. This process once mastered will allow Willy Guhl to approach the design of furniture using the Eternit and, in 1954, the famous “Loop chair” was born. This beach chair made of a fiber cement ribbon is a real technical feat and of an optimal shape for the human anatomy.

Willy Guhl's pieces have had a lasting impact on industrial design and still manage to convince the most discerning design enthusiasts today.