The Philosophy of F. A.
At Studio F. A.
It’s not always easy to bear the name
Before further confusion ensues, it’s best to go back and tell the story from the start. That’s how Roland Heiler sees it, at any rate. The fifty-eight-year-old managing director of the studio climbs the rooftop terrace of the new building—a structure known internally as “the tower.” “Tower” is perhaps a somewhat overstated term for a building with a mere three stories under its roof. But those three stories are in Zell am See—and there, in the picturesque Pinzgau region, it does stand out.
From the rooftop, Heiler points northward to a group of buildings that almost constitute a small village of their own. “That’s Schüttgut, the Austrian home of the
Stroke of genius: Chronograph I
In 1972, Ferdinand A.
With the Chronograph I,
Avant-garde design since 1972
Officially, the design studio’s name is “Studio F. A.
There are not many product categories that have not been shaped, in some form or another, by the Studio in its forty-five years in business: glasses, writing utensils, furniture—even trams. “We’ve also developed paint spray guns and a capsule-filling machine for a pharmaceutical company,” says Christian Schwamkrug, design director and deputy managing director. When he begins to name some examples of the Studio’s design philosophy, the fifty-nine-year-old can hardly contain himself: he speaks of classics like the interchangeable-lens sunglasses, which are not only visibly striking but also practical and flexible. And he gushes about appliances whose brushed aluminum surfaces defined kitchen design for two decades.
Schwamkrug takes an object from the display case in the showroom. “This pen shows how we think and design.” At first glance: an exquisitely crafted stainless steel pen with fine horizontal grooves. “But of course,” says the design chief with a twinkle in his eye, “the grooves are not just decoration. They are the visible portion of a laser-engraved meander pattern that rings the shaft of the pen. When pressed, it contracts and triggers the mechanism that extends and retracts the tip. Every element has a function, and that function is always paramount. In other words, the reason for the structure is functional rather than decorative. It’s a design driven by the engineering impulse.”
The same applies to new products for entertainment and communication. A typical example is the 911 Soundbar, a sound system for the living room whose resonance body is the rear silencer from the
Taking the car to the sixtieth floor
Among the latest activities of the Studio are projects of a completely different dimension: the
By Jan Van Rossem
Photos by Thorsten Doerk