curated by Ariana Pradal
Swiss manufacturers and designers have produced some iconic chair designs over the past 100 years, including models by Dietiker. Time and again, the company’s owners and employees, working with designers, have optimised and in some cases reinvented the chair. The exhibition sheds light on the history, chairs and people of the chair factory in Stein. In 1873, the Schläfle brothers and Julius Auer founded a cabinetmaker’s workshop at the former hospital mill in Stein am Rhein. When Johann Peter Dietiker purchased the joinery in 1916, the company took on the name it still bears today: Dietiker.
Until the mid-20th century, the company's furniture collection was characterised by traditional models and solid quality workmanship. The post-war period ushered in not only social and political change but also a shift in furniture design. Furniture became paler, more lightweight and more modern. In Stein am Rhein, the signs of the times were spotted too late. The chair factory, now the property of Ernst Mettler, was on the verge of collapse by the end of the 1950s. Mettler’s friend and Migros founder Gottlieb Duttweiler took over the company.
Edlef Bandixen, a cabinetmaker from northern Germany, joined the company in 1958. Initially as plant manager and later as managing director, he successfully shaped the company popularly known as Sesseli for 30 years. Together with designer Willy Guhl, born in Stein am Rhein, the company began to modernise its range.
With Bruno Rey, Dietiker launched its Model 3300 chair in 1971 – a novelty in chair manufacturing and the best-selling Swiss-made chair to this day. Dietiker’s new building at its current location in the Degerfeld industrial estate was inaugurated in 1979. In 1991, the production plant in Hungary was added. This is where all of the company’s wooden chairs are manufactured today. The economic crisis, a home market that was too small and reorganisation within Migros led to the sale of Dietiker in 2001. Experienced furniture entrepreneur Urs Felber acquired the company, which is now being run by the second generation, under his daughter Nathalie Felber Kaplan.