Things commenced this morning under the gray skies again, though this time, instead of nattering about Zurich, we were off to the rural byways of Langenthal, a quaint little town reputed for its industrial prowess.
We started the day with an informative session from several members of the Swiss design community. We heard from Rado watches, the graphic design firm P’INC, and the modular furniture manufacturer USM—by far the best of lot thanks to Fritz Haller’s virtually unchanged 1963 design—and the burgeoning design fair Designer’s Saturday, which focuses on Swiss firms displaying their wares in Langenthal, rounded things out.
From there it was off to lunch just down the road at the rather trad, and rather tasty, Alte Müll (pictured above). The place used to be a mill, and sits beside a charming stream, the picture of rural Swiss charm.
Things really picked up in the afternoon though, as we got the proper factory tour of Ruckstuhl, a sustainable carpet manufacturer. Peter Ruckstuhl, whose family has been running the business for four generations, was an excitable man thrilled to be sharing his company. Watching the massive weaving machines, warp deftly married with weft, was mesmerizing. Tufting machines, backing applicators, and massive ovens showed the power of technology, while artisans hand-stitching breaks in the weave and personally checking the rugs for flaws kept the whole affair on the human scale.
All told, Ruckstuhl produces between 400,000 and 500,000 square meters of rugs per year, and their commitment to sustainability both in materials and process was inspiring. Easily the highlight of the day, we lingered in the showroom and had to be pushed out of the factory.
Would that we’d felt the same way about Création Baumann, another textile manufacturer, though the problem there was a rather ragged crew, not any defect on CEO Philippe Bauman’s part. His tour was also engaging, though because it was later in the day fewer machines were hard at it, and much of the place was deserted.
Exhausted from wall-to-wall programming we tucked into an early dinner, and shortly thereafter I tucked into bed. I managed only ten pages of Wuthering Heights before falling off into dreams of my own. The Vitra Design Museum and the chance to see a Corbu villa is up for tomorrow so I’ll be getting my rest.