Ferdinand Alexander Porsche celebrates his 70th birthdayThe shape of the 911 classic sports car has become a pillar of the company’s brand identity
Stuttgart. Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, shareholder and honorary chairman of the supervisory board of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, celebrates his 70th birthday on December 11, 2005. Born in Stuttgart, the eldest son of Ferry Porsche headed up the Stuttgart-based sports car maker’s design studio from 1962 to 1972 – the period during which the Porsche 911 and the 904 race car were created. In 1972, he established his own design studio, relocating it two years later to Zell am See in Austria. During the decades that followed, he designed men’s accessories such as watches, spectacles and writing instruments, which were marketed under the “Porsche Design” brand. Working with a team of a dozen designers, he also styled a host of industrial products, household appliances and consumer products for well-known international companies. Today, the studio in Zell am See is one of the most highly-regarded design studios in the world.
Referring to the unusual breadth of his work, Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking, President and CEO of Porsche AG says, “Ferdinand Alexander Porsche has designed all of the things men consider important. Many of his designs have become classics.” Although F.A. Porsche left his father’s company in 1972, Wiedeking feels that the legacy of his designs still exerts a powerful influence on the sports car manufacturer’s current products. “The shape of the Porsche 911 remains persuasive to this day. It has become a pillar of our brand identity. All of the sports cars we build now, and are yet to build in the future, must follow in the footsteps of the 911. It is how our customers recognize them as being Porsche. His lines on paper,” continues Wiedeking, “his eye for detail, his unmistakable feel for the overall effect – all of these things have contributed to his reputation as a world-class designer.” He has stated more clearly than almost anyone in his profession that design is not simply art, it is elegance of function. Despite his success and his fame, he has managed to remain down-to-earth like his father and grandfather before him, and maintains a dignified reserve. “Ferdinand Alexander Porsche has retained his modesty and humanity – characteristics that in today’s world are rarely associated with being famous,” says Wiedeking.
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche has received many awards and honors for his work as a designer. The Industrial Design Forum Hanover chose him as their “1992 Prizewinner of the Year”, and the President of Austria made him an honorary professor in 1999.
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche: “Good design must be honest.”
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche was born on December 11, 1935 in Stuttgart, the eldest son of Dorothea and Ferry Porsche, who later founded the sports car maker. Even as a small boy, he accompanied his father and grandfather Ferdinand to the engineering design office in Zuffenhausen. He later admitted that these early experiences made a strong impression on him: “I was proud and happy to be a part of it all. I think the experiences of that time have remained part of my subconscious mind.” When he was seven, the family moved to Zell am See to avoid the bombing. As a child, “Butzi” – as he was fondly known to his family – enjoyed designing and building his own toys. Upon his return to Stuttgart, he attended the Waldorf School and then studied at the Ulm School of Design. In 1958, he started work at the design office of what was then Porsche KG.
He soon gave a vivid demonstration of his design skills when he created the first plasticine model of a successor to the 356 series. The Porsche 911, developed directly from his drawings, was shown for the first time in September 1963 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Years later, it would be part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1962, he was appointed head of the Stuttgart-based sports car manufacturer’s design studio. The design of all of the racing and sports cars that left the factory in the 1960s bear his hallmark, including the legendary 904 Carrera GTS long-distance race car.
As a designer, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche enjoys a reputation as a functionalist. A strict and clear line is discernible in all of the product designs that have emerged from his studio. “Design must be functional and functionality must be translated into visual esthetics, without any reliance on gimmicks that have to be explained,” was the credo for his design work. The purism of “Porsche Design” demands authenticity and discards anything that is unnecessary or superfluous. F. A. Porsche: “A product that is coherent in form requires no embellishment. It is enhanced by the purity of its form.” Form should be presented in a way that is easily understood and that does not divert attention from the product and its functional purpose. He has always been convinced that “good design must be honest.”
In Fall 2003, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, together with other “Porsche Design” shareholders and Porsche AG, founded Porsche Lizenz- und Handelsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG (PLH), in which Porsche AG now holds a majority interest. The aim of this new company is to exploit the potential of the Porsche name in business areas unrelated to the auto industry. “Porsche Design” features prominently in these activities, and the company plans to develop this into one of the world’s premier luxury brands with its own marketing and distribution network. Porsche AG has thus set a course that will continue the life work of Ferdinand Alexander Porsche within its own organization.
Early this year, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche decided to resign from the supervisory board of Porsche AG and to withdraw from active professional life. He will be celebrating his 70th birthday with his family in Zell am See.
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