Modular Furniture

Modular optimism; optimism and social progress once served as driving forces for the reform of architecture and furniture. The promise of a better, fairer societywas a solid source of inspiration for architect Frits Haller and Paul Schärer, engineer and entrepreneur. Their friendship began in 1961 when Schärer commissioned Haller to design a new factory and office for USM, the fast growing company in steel products, his grandfather Ulrich Schärer had founded in Münsingen, near Bern, Switzerland.

Trained at the prominent Polytechnical University of Zürich, Paul Schärer (1933–2011) was touched by Modernism, embracing social and aesthetic innovations and the use of the latest techniques, sweeping aside obsolete values of continuity and tradition for the sake of lending shape to the now and the new. Light air, space and the economic use of materials were ‘leitmotiv’ for all modern construction. Schärer was inspired by the glass and steel architecture Mies van de Rohe designed in Chicago and New York.

USM 0019312
Factory building
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Das Buchli

He welcomed the functional approach of Frits Haller (1924-2012) who presented him with a modular steel construction enabling almost limitless extension and allowing maximum flexibility for adapting the new factory to future needs. The system exceeded all expectations and Schärer invited Haller to design a family home; ‘Das Buchli’. 

Creativity kept flowing when the two embarked on the development of new office and factory cabinets, based on Haller’s modular principles. Almost as a sideline, Schärer and Haller’s modular steel multicolored USM cabinet was launched in 1969. The system extends in all directions using a clever ball hinge. The USM cabinet provides a versatility to office interiors of prominent brands around the globe and excelled the fame of the architectural DNA it originates from. This ideal too still linger on.

USM 0015980
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This story was previously published in WOTH No 17 that can still be ordered here:  no.17