Verspanntes Regal

Wolfgang Laubersheimer

Design: 1984
Production: since 1984
Manufacturer: Pentagon, Cologne
Size: 250 x 42 x 31; base 31 x 31 cms
Material: 3 mm-thick sheet steel,
steel cable, tensioner

The eighties are characterized by the awakening of a general interest in design. At no other time in the history of designing the everyday world was the focus on objects in our immediate surroundings so widespread and so animated. Of course, the acceptance of the provocative, or what did not correspond to the ideal or the dictates of “good form,” can be attributed to economic preconditions and the need of individuals to be able to shape their own private sphere. The New Design of the eighties was not based on industrial mass production, but was often home-grown, in that design, manufacture, and sale were all carried out by the designer himself. One-of-a-kind objects and miniseries displayed in the galleries at first earned smiles at best from the established manufacturers of high-quality, accepted design products; however, the concept of industrial design was soon called into question. Creating a longlife product, or a design for serial production, was no longer accepted as the decisive criteria for a successful design. Instead, design was able to concentrate on objects manufactured in varying quantities. The draft, be it sketch, model, one-of-a-kind object, or series, could all be considered different forms of creative expression. The previously meaningful classification of craftsmanship versus (industrial) design was replaced with new ideas that bridged the gap between the two: “art which makes itself useful” or applied art. Industry began tapping creative potential. Designer furniture or limited editions no longer attempted to meet everyone’s needs, but rather catered to those of a limited market segment. The pluralism of the styles corresponds to the insignificance of previous dictates of fashion. One of the icons of New Design is the “Verspanntes Regal” (taut shelf) by Wolfgang Laubersheimer. He is a cofounder of Pentagon, a group of designers who joined forces in Cologne in 1985 and set up their own gallery there. The name of the group is a reference to the number of its members. In 1987 Pentagon exhibited their works at the “documenta 8” art show in Kassel, and furnished the highprofile Café Casino there. Today, the shelf is no longer part of the Pentagon collection (the gallery had to close in 1990). Laubersheimer took over production himself, enhancing the collection of the Nils Holger Moormann design agency in Aschau, Germany. The shelf is still equated with Pentagon and is without a doubt the group’s most famous and widely sold product. On one hand, it can be understood as a playfully ironic attack on the aesthetics of the right angle, an integral part of Functionalism. On the other, it poses a novel, convincingly constructive solution to an ongoing problem. Any shelf made of thin sheet steel, which in terms of the ratio of surface area to thickness is unusually fine, would be highly unstable. This instability can only be compensated with a brace which traditionally runs along the diagonal, as in a half-timbered house. Laubersheimer devised a way to brace the longitudinal axis. He countered the springy properties of the steel lateral surfaces with the tensile strength steel cable affixed to the sides, which generated a stable equilibrium between the forces. The black steel plate was left untreated, a sign of the new material aesthetics which took up the Italian art trend of Arte Povera, a style quickly adopted by many commercial suppliers in “anonymous design”. PD

Wolfgang Laubersheimer

Wolfgang Laubersheimer Verspanntes Regal