Wilkhahn - Company
International success driven by consistency and continuity
Unlike virtually any other manufacturer in the office furniture industry, Wilkhahn stands worldwide for design made in Germany. It offers high-quality office and dynamic conference furniture which are benchmarks for the entire industry. Some 60 years ago, the company made better utility value, long-lasting design and durability its goals. Milestones like
classic office chair FS-Line (1980)
Confair folding conference table
office chair Modus
skid-base chair Aline (2004)
have shaped the way offices have evolved. The latest examples of pioneering innovations are the
multi-purpose chair Chassis
conference range Graph
which leading experts currently consider the world’s best office chairs.
Wilkhahn also sets new standards in terms of its socio-ecological approach. As winner of the German Environmental Prize, the company has worked with architects Frei Otto and Thomas Herzog and has actively been practising environmental responsibility for over 20 years. In addition to a number of international accolades,
office chair ON
has also received the Federal Ecodesign Award.
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History of Wilkhahn
Friedrich Hahne and Christian Wilkening founded a chair-making factory in Eimbeckhausen near Hanover. The name of the two founders was later used to create the company name of Wilk-hahn. High-quality, solid beech chairs were made from wood from nearby forests. The manufacturing plant did not differ greatly from the other 100 or so small and medium-sized chair manufacturers in the area.
Business ran well, but the two were not satisfied with just that. They looked for new design paths and took up contact with Walter Heyn, the director of Deutsche Werkstätten, and with designers such as Georg Leowald and Herbert Hirche whose work was influenced by the Bauhaus movement and the Werkbund. At that time no one sensed that their fascination with experimentation would later pay off. The secret of the advance from a craft business to a company with international operations was simple: success through design.
In the 1950s the company succeeded in retaining excellent designers such as Herbert Hirche, Georg Leowald, Roland Rainer, Jupp Ernst and Helmut Lohmeier. Wilkhahn became a pioneer of German industrial design, experimented with new materials and evolved its own distinct design language. This resulted in purist furniture, the form of which was developed in strict adherence to function. Some of them were to go down in design history.
Truly revolutionary products were developed in close collaboration with the Ulmer Hochschule für Gestaltung (Ulm Academy of Design). The avant-gardists of industrial design plumbed the depths of the political dimensions of design. Consumerism and the "ad libitum" attitude to design was set against the social responsibility of designers and the "moral of things". Wilkhahn adopted one of the maxims from the founding manifesto of the Ulm designers: "Our aim is to develop sustainable products, to increase their utility value and to reduce waste."
The 1970s were characterized by professionalism, especially in terms of design management. The 232 office chair range by Wilhelm Ritz became the basis of success in the office chair segment. This design classic with the two-section seat shell and distinctive swivel joint – a design icon that is still in great demand today – took administrations and cashier workplaces, especially in financial institutions and insurance offices, by storm at a time when such businesses were keen on adopting a modern corporate image. And Wilkhahn became the talk of the town when it introduced profit-sharing for employees in line with the guiding principle of “social justice”.
Klaus Frank and Werner Sauer developed a new office swivel chair following intensive ergonomic studies and series of tests.
The FS-Line marked the consistent implementation of the principle of dynamic sitting long before its great significance had come to be realized. Instead of complicated "sitting machines" with an array of levers, dials and adjustment knobs, there was now a chair with a high degree of flexibility in terms of adjustment to individual posture, and which even encouraged movement. More than 2 million of these chairs have been sold to date and still feature in our current product portfolio.
Wilkhahn did justice to its trailblazing status in the environmental field too: the production halls designed by Thomas Herzog, completed in 1993, are regarded throughout the world as a model of excellence of both aesthetic and environmentally compatible building construction. In 1995 the "Picto" swivel chair - made from pure, coded and completely dismountable individual components - was the first office chair in the world to be awarded the environmental label of the Dutch Milieukeur Foundation.
The Internet, start up, teamwork, self-organization, a learning society, conference techniques: these are typical buzz words of a work environment which entered a revolutionary phase of movement and since then has not stood still. Product development at Wilkhahn evolves out of an extensive analysis of modern forms of work and communication.
Confair and Conrack are only two of the furnishing ranges, which evolved as a result of such an analysis, which allow scope for creativity and change, for thinking, working and living, for groups and individuals.
The Federal Award for Design Leadership was presented to Fritz Hahne. This award by the German Design Council is intended to honour those who have rendered great service with regard to the role of design in Germany. The Chairman of the Jury, Dr. h. c. Dieter Rams, remarked: "Fritz Hahne's special achievement lies in the fact that he continually showed that good product design, top quality, social responsibility and ecological awareness can also be realized in an economically successful company."
This is the theme employed by EXPO 2000 to present scenarios depicting how the future might be on the threshold to the new millennium. Our contribution: "The future of work in the field between humankind, nature, technology and the market", a special Expo exhibition in collaboration with the DGB (German Trade Union Federation), the AOK (Health Insurance Fund), the Deutsche Arbeitsschutz Ausstellung (German Safety at Work Exhibition) and the Institut für Arbeit- und Sozialhygiene (Institute for Occupational and Social Hygiene).
The Wilkhahn Asia Pacific subsidiary, founded in 1999, develops into a successful base for expanding markets in Australia and Asia. At the same time, the concept of a holistic approach to responsibility is also systemised. After Wilkhahn became one of the first medium-sized enterprises in Germany to publish a sustainability report for EXPO 2000, it is the first company in Lower Saxony to achieve certification based on the European Management and Audit Scheme 2 (EMAS 2)
The 100-year anniversary of the company’s foundation is all about the future. In addition to the big party, there’s also a congress where ground-breaking topics such as innovation, ecology and social responsibility are discussed. Joining the Global Compact emphasises the company’s wish to take responsibility on the international stage too. For its “Conference. Excellence” submission, the company wins a prize as one of the “365 places in the land of ideas”. In publishing its “Planning Guide for Conference and Communication Environments” Wilkhahn highlights its expertise with conferences to the public
After a five-year research and development phase in conjunction with the German Sport University Cologne and others, Wilkhahn launches the
ON office-chair range. At the core of the chair lies a patented worldwide innovation called Trimension which Wilkhahn harnesses to teach seating to walk. The added value of this technology is that the body intuitively employs a more varied and frequent range of motion than it does on conventional office chairs. At the same time the body stays relaxed in any position and maintains its centre of gravity. The office chair ON with Trimension quickly develops into the new benchmark for healthy dynamic sitting.
The company started to use alternative sources of energy back in 1992 with the first photovoltaic roof on the new factory facilities. A combined heat and power plant operated with vegetable oil is added in 2008. Solar power is now also used and connection to the district heating grid from a neighbouring biogas plant follows. As a result, over 50 per cent of total energy requirements are covered by sustainable sources. The German Federal Ecodesign Award is presented for
office chair ON and underscores the company’s ecological approach.
“Gold Award” at NeoCon 2015 – top marks for Wilkhahn’s new office chair IN at North America’s leading contract furniture show.
NeoCon in Chicago seems to guarantee success for German furniture manufacturer Wilkhahn. When it premiered five years ago, garnered the “Best of Competition” accolade. 2015, office chair ON was presented for the first time and won the “Gold Award” in the “Seating: Ergonomic Desk/Task” category. office chair IN
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