14 April 2018


Günter Kupetz Obituary

Text: Jörg Stürzebecher

Product designer and university teacher, Günter Kupetz, who died on 24 March 2018, belonged to a generation who had to become soldiers in the Second World War before they could actually choose the careers they wanted to follow. It was a generation that returned to towns and cities in ruins, where much was destroyed, but where there were also many possibilities.


Immediately after the war Kupetz began his studies in Berlin. His fellow students included the artist-writer Günter Kunert and the illustrator for the magazines Pardon and Titanic, Chlodwig Poth. Like them, thanks to the influence of Bernhard Heiliger, Kupetz had the chance to become a sculptor and there were many opportunities. Visits to Scandinavia brought him into contact with modern everyday equipment, and this was soon followed by orders for WMF, the German tableware manufacturer. He became a product designer. To WMF he brought technically optimised and formally reduced solutions – serving platters that stood proud of the table area only minimally, bowls whose shapes are organically reminiscent of Constantin Brâncuşi and Isamu Noguchi, and of course also Heiliger, graceful objects for small post-war joys between cocktails snacks and canapés. These weren’t like Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s hard-won correct and timeless “Gute Form” [Good Design], more a part of “Gute Form Plus” [Good Design Plus], opening up to fashion.


In 1959, Kupetz belonged to the eight co-founders of the Association of German Industrial Designers (VDID) and in this context he contributed to the professionalisation of the designer beyond craftsman and engineer; something that led to professorships for him, first in Kassel and from 1973 in Berlin. Like many VDID members, he had reservations about an all too heavy stress on theory in design. This was clear both in his criticism of the HfG Ulm and in his emphasis on practicality. The latter, which should not be confused with the creation of easy, pleasing forms, is also evident in work with which Kupetz’s name is most famously associated – the shapely bottle designed for Gerresheimer Glas in 1971 while he was teaching in Kassel – the so-called “Perlenflasche” [pearl bottle] designed for bottles of sparkling water. Together with its slim “waist”, the glass nubs provide support when you hold it, for example, if your hands are slightly greasy at a barbecue, it is almost impossible for the bottle to slip out of your hand. But there is also something tragic in this design for Kupetz: it reduced him to a kind of “one-hit designer”, and as the many examples in the 2006 exhibition in the Bauhaus Archive showed us, he achieved so much more.


Nº 283
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