Thursday, 17 May 2012

feature : Handle With Respect

photo thanks to : wannabelucasjackson


photo thanks to : Vieler


One day all doors will be automatic, consigning door handles to the dustbin of history.  Some architects have already done away with handles by simply doing away with doors, but for the rest of mankind, especially those living in our delightfully moldering housing stock, it’s a case of push down and swing.  Architectural ironmongery firms have little to fear.


But amongst the endless number of handles with which we can open our doors there’s one that stands out from the crowd, one that architects have got used to specifying above most others.


Robert Mallet-Stevens, a highly important French architect and contemporary of Le Corbusier, designed a whole range of modernist buildings during the 1920s and 30s, including several palatial houses for the French well-heeled (his Villa Noailles even featured in a film by Man Ray), but his name will forevermore be associated with a door handle first used in one of several Paris apartment blocks he designed in the 1920s.  Details are a little murky, but he got an idea to mitre a piece of tubular stainless steel, and so his innovatory Frankfurt model came into being. 


But in actual fact the name Frankfurt wasn’t designated to the handle for another 60 years.  It wasn’t until the 1980s, when German architect Oswald Mathias Ungers providently chose to specify it in the detailing for Frankfurt’s Architecture Museum, that its place in the architectural pantheon was secured. 


So exactly why did the Frankfurt become the handle of choice for so many architects?  It is hardly unique.  With a round escutcheon and L-shaped handle it resembles lots of others.  I can only put it down to its undiluted architectural orthogonality.


Addendum: for the finest examples of this timeless handle go no further than those German manufactured by FSB and Vieler.



By Richard Woollen, guest author


drawing thanks to : t&s

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