If you visit the Bussalp restaurant above the Swiss resort town of Grindelwald you can experience a curious, inconspicuous, almost underwhelming, piece of furniture design history.
USM window fittings.
Just don’t expect steel tubing and chrome plated brass balls, that all came much, much later……
The story of the USM Haller modular furniture system starts in 1885 in the Swiss village of Münsingen with the establishment of a locksmith and ironmonger business by Ulrich Schärer, a locksmith and ironmonger business that slowly transformed itself into a producer of window hinges, fittings, locks, handles, etc.
Originally based in small facility near Münsingen railway station things went well for the Schärer family’s business, or better put very well, and in 1961 Paul Schärer, grandson of company founder Ulrich, could afford to commission the local architect Fritz Haller to build them a new production hall on the edge of Münsingen.
And then an administration pavilion next door.
And then some filing cabinets, book cases and general office furniture for the new administration pavilion.
The clou – production hall, pavilion and furniture were all constructed according to the same flexible, modular system. Just at different scales.
The office furniture system that Fritz Haller developed for his USM pavilion was intended as being simply for USM, a classic case of site specific design. Fate however in her fickle way had other plans for the two and so it came to pass that ever more people began enquiring if they too could have the furniture. As a result of such requests, and for all the increasing regularity of such requests, in 1969 the decision was made to start producing the USM modular furniture system as a product in its own right.
For over twenty years USM produced window components and office furniture parallel, before in 1992 production of the window elements ceased and the company concentrated 100% on the USM Haller system.
Consequently, those window handles and locks in the Bussalp restaurant almost certainly belong to the last of their kind. Rarities, so to say.
As such, should you find yourself on the Bussalp do enjoy the stunning view of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, do enjoy the wine, enjoy the cheese fondue, but before you enjoy sledging back down to Grindelwald, do take a couple of minutes to enjoy the window fittings, handles and locks in the restaurant.