kb-network    News 06 Apr 2018
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Designer Origins – From ruins to riches; an enlightening study of Bulthaup through the ages

1949: Rebuilding Germany

In the wake of WWII, Germany was rebuilding the war-torn former centre of its furniture industry – Herford. It was against this backdrop that, in 1949, Martin Bulthaup founded the ‘Martin Bulthaup Möbelfabrik’.

1951: Going South

From the outset, sales grew rapidly across recovering Bavaria, a region that at this time still didn’t have any production facilities. Martin Bulthaup therefore decided to go to Lower Bavaria in 1951 to buy a sawmill in Bodenkirchen, not far from where the company’s headquarters are based today. The newly acquired sawmill commenced operation on the 1st of May 1951, with just seven men and women as staff. Bulthaup’s first products were delivered to the surrounding areas on horse-drawn carts. A good reputation enabled the company to advance rapidly until it started to supply the whole of Germany.

1950s & 60s: Looking to the future

The 1950s and 60s were characterised by continuous factory expansions, investment in new production facilities, growing staff numbers, and the introduction of a market-oriented branding policy. In 1969 Bulthaup presented Style 75, a system featuring modern benefits, natural forms, well-considered fittings, and clear lines. A Bulthaup spokesperson said, “We call it Style 75 because it’s a completely new kitchen solution. Style 75 encapsulates the developments that we anticipate will take place over the next few years. These kinds of kitchens will be commonplace in 1975.”

1970s: New leadership; new facilities

In 1970, it became increasingly clear that the production facilities used to date would no longer be sufficient to meet future demand. The Aich project saw the start of plans to build an industrial-size kitchen factory of a scale that went beyond the traditional conceptions of a furniture factory. The Aich facility was built in 1971, with on-site production starting in March 1972. In 1976, Gerd Bulthaup, the son of the company’s founder, and his sister, Ingeborg Eckert, take over the company. With his love of architecture, Bauhaus philosophy and timeless design, Gerd Bulthaup fundamentally changed the company’s focus: “Put simply, we wanted to produce first-class kitchens. Rather than focusing on existing functions, we wanted to invent new uses for the kitchen and to create a living space that people could gather and communicate in.”

1980s & 90s:

In 1980, Gerd Bulthaup persuades the designers for the Summer Olympics in Munich and Otl Aicher, who pioneered the concept of corporate identity, to work with him. The Weimar Bauhaus movement’s guiding principle – ‘form follows function’ – becomes central to the design of bulthaup products. To get a more informed picture of kitchen culture, Gerd Bulthaup and Otl Aicher conducted a long-term investigation, preceded by more than 50 trips exploring people’s living and eating habits all over the world. The result: an entirely new kitchen design philosophy. Otl Aicher, an amateur cook, describes this philosophy in his 1982 book ‘The Kitchen is for Cooking’ – a classic that is still referred to when creating kitchens today. In 1992 Bulthaup set new standards with the launch of the flexible modular system 25. The design recognized the fact that functionalism and living culture do not have to be at odds with one another. Thanks to its modernism, functionality and versatility, the brand became synonymous with the progressive notion of ‘kitchen as a living space’ in architecture.

21st Century: The next generation

Marc O. Eckert, the grandson of Bulthaup’s founder, took over sole management of the company in 2010, consolidating Bulthaup’s position as an independent family business. Authentic materials and products, exacting quality standards, perfection down to the very last detail, well-considered, functional design, and simple, clear forms remained the brand’s founding principles. But tradition and a past mean more than just adhering to a set of values. It also means constantly changing to meet the challenges of the future.

Bulthaup | bulthaup.com