‘Because the hand can grasp, thinking can also grasp.’ – Otl Aicher
Motoring through the beautiful landscape of Eastern Westphalia will induce you to take your foot off the accelerator, with one wind farm following the other – the large rotor blades defining the speed for the approach to Brakel, the handle town.
The five plants in two locations are in a constant state of change, in a continuous process of extension, maintenance and optimisation. The ‘Work1 and Administration’ building group, with the former steam slaughterhouse gives an enchanting impression, the smallest village scale exists here, a corner of a building nearly touches the side of a building, a square, an open space, buildings which could tell stories, and which have made their contribution to the history of grip and handle culture. At FSB, mechanical and manual production processes are combined, depending on the design in question and the quantity to be produced. Together with the automated casting process, tradition is kept alive here in Work 1, for example with manual gravity die casting, which is used for smaller quantities or for especially demanding models. This is a process in which melted material (in this case aluminium) is poured through an upper inlet into a metal mould, filling out any hollow spaces through gravitational effects. A ladle of melted aluminium is taken by hand from the crucible and filled into the mould. Here skill and sensitivity are required, since the moulds have to take up the liquid aluminium with an optimum tilting motion. After a few seconds the solidification process is complete, the square pin which holds the space in the handle for the later processing is removed, the mould knocked apart, the hardened cast aluminium part inspected. The parts deemed good in this first quality control come into the box for further processing; the ones with faults go into the bin – so straight back to the crucible. The further processing, the grinding and polishing, is still carried out by hand for many models and smaller quantities. Thus every piece that leaves the production hall is unique. Every door handle from FSB has gone through countless trained and attentive hands. To achieve a perfect result very different production methods are combined, depending on the design being produced. No two handles are produced in exactly the same way, almost all have a special feature here or there, which requires particular expertise. The aspiration at FSB: architecture in miniature. Those who love perfect detail take very special pleasure in this, because: ‘The detail makes the design.’
Production, further processing and fitting
The Works 2–5 are located on the other side of the little village, the rural idyll is adjoined by the industrial zone on the edge of town, the name Industriestrasse leaves no doubt that a new age started here 40 years ago. This is where the further processing of the raw aluminium parts and the manufacturing of all stainless steel products is carried out.
Stainless steel tubes are cut to the correct length, bent, welded to mitre or hydraulically expanded with a mixture of oil and water. Sheets of metal from coils are stamped out as half shells. The aluminium handles are ground, polished and anodised, oval and round handle rods are individually bent and fitted with holders in accordance with countless special wishes. What was initially intended ‘only’ for door handles with regard to the oval handle cross-section, advanced under the influence of FSB’s company designer Hartmut Weise in the process of demographic change to become the core characteristic of the ErgoSystem barrier-free handle and fittings concept for sanitary areas and bathrooms. But more about that later. Here the fitting of the various isis systems is also carried out, together with configuration. The mechatronics, the heart and soul of the entry control solutions by FSB, finds enough space in the just 14mm handle rose, which connects the square spindle within the lock with the door handle by means of an electronic impulse.
Handmade in Germany: The aluminium is cast into the mould, the hardened aluminium piece is removed and immediately checked for imperfections
Further production process: welding to mitre, welding two half shells, hydraulic expansion using an oil-water mixture, the so-called internal high pressure forming
Characteristic beauty in every product
Top left: Robot arm in front of the automated grinding process Second row: guide piece (door handle core) and isis components Third row: the shape of the oval tube can only be ground manually, it is bent mechanically Below: individual solutions are everyday business, here: a pictogram from a design by a French architect Top right: the variety of shapes is immense, here: a sample blank prior to the final grinding and polishing work.
During the conversation in the ‘Old Grinding Shop’ Dieter Holsträter uses the word aspiration in the same breath as quality, design, and innovation. Very important for him: a production philosophy which is based 100% on ‘Made in Brakel’, which apart from quality without compromise also necessarily leads to a certain price level. Casually he comments: ‘Cheap I cannot afford. That is too expensive for me.’ A motto which corresponds to both his private and professional attitude and which customers and property developers also live by – whether in premium housing construction or in naturally budget-driven building construction. Even if Dieter Holsträter as a technician deals with sophisticated or literary topics more as a sideline, he is still pleas
ed about the dedicated FSB fans amongst the architects who see the regular FSB publications and events as authentic contributions towards a practised industrial culture and as an enrichment beyond the daily business. This content is essential to strengthen the aspiration of the company, also on a higher level, and to not only focus the core performances of the premium brand FSB on factual-technical parameters alone. With regard to new topics, such as isis access management and the barrier-free ErgoSystem, Dieter Holsträter clearly sees the FSB task as taking new paths and opening doors on a daily basis.
‘Mediocrity seems to be the basic measure and the basis of beauty, but by no means beauty itself, because something characteristic is required for this.’ – Immanuel Kant
The contradiction which arises when philosophers argue about the evaluation of aspiration and mediocrity does not interest Dieter Holsträter. He sees in FSB the bespoke tailor in the market who keeps a balance between high-tech production, software development, keyless access management, sophisticated design, ergonomics, and manufacture characterised by craftsmanship. The responsibility for every single part that is produced is born by the employees. Everywhere we find door handles, handle parts and filigree fittings – no matter in which production process – held in the hand, guided, removed, checked, passed on. The collaboration of hand and eye seems to be perfected amongst the employees. Individual parts are assembled to make a whole, moulded parts are added to, welded, ground and polished efficiently, skilfully and very precisely.
Design is supposed to make the world a little bit better
Hartmut Weise has been working as a designer for FSB since 1991. In the 1990s FSB planned to push stainless steel material and the appropriate handle programmes, together with the construction of a new stainless steel plant. The nucleus in the process of the extended production competence was formed by four models from the hands of Harmut Weise, which have in the meantime almost become classics. Weise expanded and thought more about the ‘four commandments of grasping’, which Otl Aicher had formulated for FSB in the 1980s. For him the grasping space, the space where a handle is grasped, is a phenomenon which has to be investigated. And that is what Hartmut Weise does: observing, analytical, researching. How does the hand approach the handle, in which direction does it grasp, which arm movement takes place when the door opens? Back then he registered that the slanted grasp, which takes place at an angle diagonally through the grasping space, obliquely with the palm of the hand closed around the handle, is the best adjusted one to human movement. He started his design studies back in the 1970s at Burg Giebenstein on the Saale; he wanted to
improve the world by design. Design was not only supposed to power economic success, but also to move the world forward a little through improved products and continued scrutiny. His aspiration was motivated by Bauhaus philosophy, and it is certainly no surprise that very similar objectives were also formulated for the Ulm school by its founders. Weise adopted holism of thought and minimalistic yet well-designed principles. Today he tries to couple the varied and partly-diluted design streams with his own, to remain true to design maxims, and yet at the same time to take new paths for the company.
From the theory of the slanting grasping space
developed also the design of the ergonomically-shaped folding handle with a 45° oval tube, which found its perfection in an independent handle system – the ErgoSystem. This series for more design, function and comfort in the bathroom has been on the market for more than 10 years, and is extended, varied and perfected from year to year. Weise describes enthusiastically the decision in favour of a crank, the grasping direction, which has to be defined in advance, the mounting point on the wall which is consciously separated from those parts which are grasped, and provides visible help in use, the transformation from elliptical to round, the change between
plastic and stainless steel… Now at the latest has one begun to grasp what Hartmut Weise meant by his aspiration to make the world a little bit better.
Almost the entire range of handles that are available today hangs on this wall. Hartmut Weise shows the highlights of his creative work.
The handle core is welded to the handle and provides a secure and precise holder for the square spindle. This is where most force is applied later, thus this area is conically shaped on every FSB handle. Other features of the unmistakable handle are the lasered logo and a serial number which documents the production period.
The effect of design and form
Once described by the FAZ as ‘a publishing house which produces also handles on the side’, today FSB enlivens design and constant scrutiny once again with its solutions for digital building organisation: the isis access solutions combine not only the formal, material, and ergonomical quality of the famous handles with a LAN/WLAN administration, but also through the mechatronic concept take functionally completely different directions, which literally open new doors and offer holistic solutions to property developers and operators. This is and was – you can imagine it – the aspiration.