A few days ago I took a dive into Zürich history, visiting one of its most legendary places: the former Café Select today housing the renovated Molino Select. Maybe not all of you know this iconic place, but it has an interesting story that is deeply intertwined with a piece of Swiss design history.
Our story begins in the Autumn of 1935 in a building at Limmatquai 16. Its ground floor hosted the first Boulevard Café in Zürich (Café Select opened by architect Willy Boesiger) and the first cinéma d’art and d’essay in the city (Kono Studio Nord-Süd). It would later become one of the most important meeting places for artists, intellectuals, actors and architects counting among its prominent guests even Alfred Einstein and Max Frisch.
At the time, intellectuals hanging out at the Café Select used to sit on chairs designed by Werner Max Moser (horgenglarus): the namesake Select Chair i-370. It was a plywood chair with a curved back, a good compromise between a chair and a small armchair, particularly comfortable for long stays, originally upholstered and covered in red wax fabric. The chairs became the epitome of the Café Select décor and were retained until the café, which had been slightly modernized but not fundamentally changed in 1998, had to be closed. 2011 also ended the era of the cinema North-South.
The select chair became an icon of Swiss furniture design and continues to be one of the cornerstone pieces of the horgenglarus collection. The very same chair has been chosen again for the renovated Molino Select and it’s ready to write a new chapter of this amazing piece of Zürich history.
I had the chance to be in conversation with horgenglarus, the oldest manufacturer of chairs and tables in Switzerland, CEO Marco Wenger during the pre-opening of the new Molino Restaurant. Read the full interview below.
The Molino Select reopens on an existing legacy, the Select Café. This is a piece of Zürich history and horgenglarus has been a part of it since 1935, when the Select chairs started populating the original Café. Can you share some special stories or anecdotes behind the chair design process?
We don’t know much about the development phase but much more about the delivery. When the famous Café Select opened in this house in 1935, Horgenglarus equipped it with 115 chairs. We even have the delivery note in our archive. (They were padded and covered with a red wax fabric.) The model has become the epitome of the restaurant. So these chairs have always accompanied the Café Select over the time, with each rebuilding, with each new equipment, one used these chairs again. They are still in our collection today and we have been calling this model select for a long time.
What makes this chair an evergreen and iconic piece of Swiss (and international) design? How has it been reinterpreted for this specific project?
Each of our products has a clear DNA and is timeless, stable, filigree, comfortable and functional. Only if these five points are fulfilled, it can become a family member of our collection. It was the same with Select chair.
We offer a bar stool select, but without backrest. For Pizzeria Restaurant Molino, it is conceptually important that the stools at the bar are very comfortable. A backrest is, of course, a big gain. That’s why we developed a bar stool with backrest together with the interior designer in charge, Ushi Tamboriello, that has been successfully in use at the Pizzeria Ristorante Molino in Frauenfeld for several months now.
What’s next at Horgenglarus?
We have just launched a new lounge family and will be showing it to the international public at the furniture fair in Cologne in January 2020. Seley is the result of two years of development work with the Swiss designer Frédéric Dedelley. There is also a new table which we will present, it is a further development of podia, which is already in our assortment. We can be curious.