Pure emotion around heritage, craftsmanship and innovation.

Alfredo Häberli


B.I. Collection (BIC): When you moved to Switzerland from Buenos Aires with your parents as a child, you had a box of toy cars with you. These cars inspired you to become a designer, they say. Was there also a model of a Porsche 356 in this box?

Alfredo Häberli: No, as far as I know, there were no Porsches at Matchbox. My favorite car was an Iso Grifo designed by the very young Giorgio Giugiaro at Bertone. Many years later I found out that all my favorite cars were designed by Giugiaro – including those boxy cars like the Golf GTI and the Fiat Panda – I later learned about more of Bertone’s designs in books. But this Iso Grifo was actually one of the reasons I studied design.

BIC: Why is the design of the 356 SC still so timeless 75 years after its presentation?

AH: I think it’s mostly because of the sculptural form. Porsche designed the body of the 356, which consists of only five parts, with very few joints. I recognized these sculptural shapes again when we completely disassembled the car and sanded it to a matte finish. It is a very unique design that touched me strongly, comparable to sculptures by Jean Arp or Constantin Brâncuși.

BIC: Your Art Car has a very reduced design. Was this approach indispensable due to your personal creative expression? What part does the design of the 356 play?

AH: When I got the request, I had great respect. A sculpture with such iconic design is actually not allowed to touch, highest underline in its formal quality and reductiveness. At first I had another project idea, but the Porsche Center Zurich convinced me to really lend a hand. Then I thought, okay, then I’ll paint myself. I tried to underline, emphasize and give even more weight to the beautiful shape gradients. With respect, but also with modesty in the sense of: I take a step back and leave the car as it is. From a distance you can not even see that was painted. Only when you get closer do the brushstrokes become visible.

BIC: Speaking of brushes, is the choice of technology due to the car and its time?

AH: I got to grips with the 365 and realized that each body is unique. The doors were formed and welded by hand at that time, each has its own number that matches the body, the same goes for the trunk and engine covers. I wanted to emphasize this handiwork with my design – especially in a time when Art Car have become very noisy. They need to work on small screen and especially on social media. I wanted to do something to counteract this and at the same time bring the 356 into today. That’s why I didn’t work with foiling, but dared to use the original body.

BIC: You talk about the Porsche 356 as a sculpture. Are there any other brands or models in the history of the automobile that you would give this rating to?

AH: In my opinion, Porsche is exemplary in this respect. Perhaps because it wasn’t car designers who were at work, but engineers who asked themselves: What can we leave out? The designs are reduced, optimized, minimized – and you can still feel that today. The Taycan also has this sculptural quality and only a few joints. Italy’s carmakers, Ferrari and Maserati for example, have also produced many wonderful sculptures. I like almost everything from the 1960s, the time when cars really became modern.

BIC: The title of the project is “The Weight of Lightness”. Was it fixed at the outset or does it subsume the completed work?

AH: It’s actually the case that the title often emerges during the process, through an intuition that you can’t control. For this project, too, the title came only after I had come to terms with the quality of the sculpture. I asked myself: How do I bring this model into the here and now? In the process, I realized that weight, or lightness, used to be one of the most important issues with Porsche, but over the years it has been forgotten. For me, it was important to think again about how light the 356 is – and how fast. It’s an exemplary car that drives like it’s new, even 75 years later. But I have to admit that I felt the weight of history on this iconic project.

BIC: You have designed clocks, furniture and many other objects. Why is it that cars, of all things, trigger such strong emotions?

AH: Not all cars touch me, only those that have a soul. Maybe it’s also the moment of freedom when you’re alone on the road: the breeze, the complexity of sounds, the scent of sensuality. With cars it’s like with good art: I go to an exhibition and certain paintings and sculptures touch me, others don’t. I don’t even have to know why, but something happens inside me. I demand the same from my own designs. Not goes out until I say: now it’s true, the design communicates. Something happens, it inspires me to ask a question, it touches me – or I just find it beautiful. This is what I mean by soul. Whether it’s lights, watches, furniture or even cars.

BIC: The Art Car you designed will be auctioned off at the end of the year and find a new owner. Do you see your work more as a utilitarian object or as a work of art?

AH: I don’t make a big distinction between art and commercial art. A picture also has a function, it must touch me, it must enrich my life. The same applies to a car, even if it is an industrial product. The big difference is that in car design, there are many industry-related restrictions.

BIC: Which car do you drive privately?

AH: I drive three. A new Porsche 928, a 1977 911 and a Saab 900 convertible.

BIC: That already answers the question of whether you choose your cars based on design or functionality. The Saab 900 is in a way also an icon, the two Porsches anyway.

AH: The Saab 900 is fascinating because it is also very functional. I’ve had it since the 1990s, so one of the last models made.

BIC: In which color?

AH: Black in beige. A four-seater that drives great, winter or summer. A passe-partout that polarizes. The Porsche 928 also has fantastic sculptural qualities. It was designed in 1978 and remains avant-garde to this day.

BIC: What color is the 911?

AH: Platinum diamond, simplistic I say golden, inside cork, natural leather and suede, super Seventies so. The color choice came from the previous owner and I must say it took courage to buy it in this color combination. Today I can not imagine anything else, because with this platinum diamond it fits both in nature and in the city. The car is interesting and at the same time suitable for everyday use, also in terms of its dimensions. The phrase “weight of lightness” therefore also fits the 911. The Saab is also narrow – yet wide enough. I feel comfortable, have enough space. A car not only has to appeal to my emotions, it has to be suitable for everyday use, especially since I’m rather tall. The 356 also offers a surprising amount of space. Unfortunately, with Italian cars, it’s often the case that I hit my head. I have to say: emotionally sensational, but sorry, that’s where the fun stops.