Victoria and Albert Museum
Kitchen Clock, by Max Bill, 1956
Kitchen Clock, Max Bill, 1953. Museum No. M.224-2007
This kitchen clock, which incorporates a mechanical timer, was designed by Max Bill whilst Director of the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG Ulm), the experimental design school founded in 1953.
The school was established by Inge Aicher Scholl and Otl Aicher in memory of Scholl’s brother and sister who had been killed in 1943 (they were part of an Anti Nazi resistance group). Scholl and Aicher’s initial vision for the school had been for an institution of democratic education, devoted to politics and philosophy as well as culture, which would aid in the moral rebuilding of Germany. Plans for the school were directed more firmly towards design when the founders invited the Swiss artist and designer Max Bill to be director.
Bill was a former Bauhaus student, president of the Swiss Werkbund and a major figure in the cause of modernist architecture and design in Europe. The school became the figurehead of Western German modernism in the post war period, often referred to as a ‘new Bauhaus’. In terms of product design, Bill and his colleagues pursued an ideal of rationalist modernism, in visual and philosophical opposition to the streamlined styling of post war American design. A totalising vision of design promoted the engagement of the artist with industry, although leading members of the school disagreed about how this should be achieved. The Ulm’s school’s achievements in industrial collaboration with companies such as Junghans and Braun, however, produced an enduring legacy of modernist product design which was highly influential around Europe.
This clock is one of the earliest and most notable designs by Bill to be put into production. Everyday objects (kitchen appliances, audio visual equipment, tools, shelving etc) were a central focus for the work of Ulm designers, who shared a tradition of ‘moral purpose through design’ and ‘good form’ with the Swiss and German Werkbunds. Bill had spearheaded the Werkbund’s good form campaign (which ran through the 1950s) with his influential travelling exhibition ‘Gute Form’ in 1949.
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