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Located in Munsingen, Switzerland, USM was founded in 1885 as a family-owned metals factory. It was Paul Scharer junior, grandson of the founder and father of the current leader, who, with the intention of strengthening industrialisation, propelled USM into modernity in the early 60s.
Passionate about design and architecture, and a great admirer of Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, in 1961 he commissioned the Swiss architect Fritz Haller to design a new flexible building that could accommodate the administration office, and the production lines.
Fritz Haller (1924-2012) was one of the most influential Swiss architects of the second half of the 20th century. He was a member of the Solothurn School group of architects and was an architectural theorist as well as a designer of buildings.
He became well-known for his three construction systems “MINI” private housing and offices, “MIDI” larger buildings and “MAXI” industrial buildings. These three systems uses steel modules of various sizes to enable a building’s surface area to be increased or decreased depending on its requirements. This system of industrialised architecture that Haller perfected in the early 1960s was part of a trend for inexpensive buildings that could be easily dismantled. This is the principle of modularity.
Fritz Haller’s flexible construction concept is perfectly suited to Paul Scharer’s ambitions. The new factory, designed according to the “MAXI” system, was inaugurated in 1965. Next to it, the administrative office building was built on a reduced scale called the Pavilion.
To equip his future offices, Paul Scharer was not satisfied with the range of classic furniture available on the market. For his own use, he and Fritz Haller developed a modular furniture system that is also able to adapt to changing needs. This is the USM Haller system and tables that we know today!
Initially intended for internal use only, the system was patented in 1965 and the first order of furniture came in 1969, by the Rothschild bank in Paris. This paved the way for mass production.
Schärer, who held both Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier in great esteem, joined the long tradition of developers who appreciated and supported modern industrial architecture. Haller therefore built the company building (1963) and office pavilion (1965) on the USM site in Münsingen, followed by the Schärer family’s private residence on a steep slope with spectacular views all round. This is known by everyone as the “Buchli”, short and sweet, after the property’s field name.
The Schärer family recently completed a meticulous complete renovation of their former residence, while still maintaining the original construction principles and appearance as well as strictly complying with historic preservation guidelines. Today, the “Buchli” is used to receive visitors to the company USM.