Thursday, February 7, 2013

UTEN.SILO I wall organizer | Dorothee Maurer-Becker | Design M | Munich, West Germany | 1969

Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO IDorothee Maurer-Becker
Design M, Munich, West Germany, 1969

Dorothee Maurer-Becker was born 1938 in Aschaffenburg, Germany.  She studied languages in Frankfurt and Munich. After living for a time in London and Paris, she moved to California in 1960. She returned to Germany in 1963 with her husband, renowned lighting designer Ingo Maurer.  Three years later, they established Design M, a Munich based design and manufacturing company.  Dorothee Maurer-Becker never trained as an artist or designer, yet created one of the most iconic and recognizable plastic designs from the 1960s:  The UTEN.SILO, or as it was often called in the United States, the Wall-All.

Design M Ingo Maurer trademark registration 

Design M Ingo Maurer trademark registration, from 1979. For lamps, first use was August, 1967 and first use in commerce was June 3, 1969.  For “furniture – namely, wall units and racks having containers and receptacles for holding household and miscellaneous articles,” first use was February, 1968 and first use in commerce was July 3, 1970.

Dorothee Maurer-Becker cites two primary inspirations for the UTEN.SILO design.  One was a toy of her prior design, the other was a storage item she recalls from her childhood.

“In 1968, fired by the spirit of the 1968 movement, I designed a wooden toy consisting of a large piece of wood with geometrically shaped notches and matching elements. The aim was for children to develop a feeling for the characteristics of geometric shapes in play. But my own children were not really interested in the toy.”
The dimensions of the game and some of its geometric shapes were later repeated in UTEN.SILO.
“My father owned a drugstore and photo shop in Aschaffenburg. When I was a child there were countless drawers there full of fascinating things waiting to be discovered, including a hang-up toilet bag made of waxed cloth full of pockets for the various toiletries. The bag held items which would normally have been stored vertically in a horizontal position. I never forgot this practical idea and later used it in UTEN.SILO.”
After a prototype was presented at the Frankfurt Fair in early 1969, Ingo Maurer decided to go into production and invested DM 250,000 in a metal injection mold weighing over three tons. Based on the exchange rate between the Deutschmark and the U.S. dollar at the time, the investment represented over $60,000, equivalent to more than $375,000 today (2013).

Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, reverse side
Reverse side of the UTEN.SILO I.

The front of UTEN.SILO was manufactured out of ABS plastic by the Dynamit Nobel company in Weissenburg, West Germany by injection molding.  At first glance it seems to be made of many parts but it is, in fact, a single piece.  Nine metal hooks and a clip were then hand-mounted, before it was stuck onto the reverse side.  The UTEN.SILO is attached to the wall through holes at each of the four corners of the piece.

Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, 9 metal hooks Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, clip

Left: Nine metal hooks.  Right: Clip.

The first UTEN.SILO units went on the market in December, 1969 and over the following years were an overwhelming success, particularly in Europe and on the United States market, where they sold under the name “Wall-All.”  The oil crisis intervened and placed pressures on the plastics industry. Consumers interested in design began to direct their attention to wood and other natural materials. Production of UTEN.SILO I was halted in 1974 and UTEN.SILO II, a smaller version manufactured starting in 1970, was discontinued a few years later.

This post is going to come in three parts, since there are three separate wall organizers designed by Dorothee Maurer-Becker that are to be presented.  These are the UTEN.SILO I (this post) and the UTEN.SILO II, both by Design M in Munich, West Germany, and the Wall-All III, by Format Sales in the United States.

Each of the organizers has its own unique variety of containers, holders, hooks, and clips that can be used to efficiently organize a kitchen, workshop, bathroom, office, or other room.  The UTEN.SILO is essentially a junk drawer you put on your wall.  It is an interesting object in that empty it is stark and cold, yet when serving its purpose, the colors and textures of the contents of the UTEN.SILO make it vibrate with energy.

l'Utopie du tout Plastique cover

The original UTEN.SILO I (34-1/4” height by 26-1/2” width by 2-1/2” depth) dates from 1969 and is featured on the cover of the seminal l'Utopie du tout Plastique 1960-1973.  A smaller version, UTEN.SILO II (26-3/4” height by 20-1/2” width by 2-1/2” depth) dates from 1970.

Schematic and size comparison between the UTEN.SILO I and UTEN.SILO IISchematic and size comparison between the UTEN.SILO I and UTEN.SILO II.


Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, greenDorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, greenDorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, green design M sticker

In 2000, the Vitra Design Museum reissued the UTEN.SILO I and UTEN.SILO II in white, red, and black. A limited edition run of 1,000 UTEN.SILO II pieces was made in chrome.

White  (promotional image).

Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, white 
Yellow (promotional image from desmobilia.com.br).

Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, yellow
Red (promotional image).

Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, red

Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, black

Vitra promotional image.

Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, black with Vitra reedition box

Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, black with Vitra reedition boxDorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, black with Vitra reedition box
UTEN.SILO I reissue by Vitra with box.


Dorothee Maurer-Becker UTEN.SILO I, white, gray, black marbled

UTEN.SILO I in “whitish-greyish marbled.”  From a test series of Vitra prior to the re-edition of the Ingo Maurer classic, without a back cover.  It was Lot 354 in the November 27, 2006 “Highlights of Design –  Design made in Germany” auction presented by
Quittenbaum Kunstauktionen.

If you know of the UTEN.SILO I in any other color, please comment below!

Selected Bibliography

Philippe Decelle, Diane Hennebert, Pierre Loze, L’Utopie Du Tout Plastique 1960 - 1973, 1994, cover, p.69.


Berg, T. (2011). Masterpieces of German design. Fiell Publishing.

Marcuse, H. (2005, August 19). Historical dollar-to-marks currency conversion page. Retrieved from http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/projects/currency.htm

Vitra. (2004, September 17). Dorothee Becker. Retrieved from http://www.czechdesign.cz/index.php?lang=2&status=c&clanek=543

Share |

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails