When, in 1928, Hannes Meyer announced a competition for pattern designs for the Gebrüder Rasch wallpaper company, the young Bauhausler Hans Fischli also took part. With great success, as it turned out: with his designs he won two-thirds of the prizes offered.

Hans Fischli in his office, photo: Heinz Guggenbühl, around 1944. SIK-ISEA Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Zürich (www.sikart.ch) / © unknown.
Hans Fischli in his office, photo: Heinz Guggenbühl, around 1944. SIK-ISEA Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Zürich (www.sikart.ch) / © unknown.

Hans Fischli was born in Zurich on 9 October 1909. He trained as an architectural draughtsman in his home city, starting in 1925, before entering the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1928. He attended courses there given by Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Oskar Schlemmer. During his studies, he was an extremely successful entrant in the competition organized by Hannes Meyer for pattern designs for the Rasch Ltd. wallpaper factory, winning two-thirds of the prizes offered. He also formed friendships with Margaret Camilla Leiteritz and Max Bill.

After leaving the Bauhaus in 1929, Fischli first worked as an architectural draughtsman in the office of Rudolf Steiger and Carl Hubacher in Zurich. From 1933 to 1976, he ran his own architectural office; one of his first commissions as an independent architect was the studio apartment building ‘Schlehstud’ on Lake Zurich, commissioned by his father, which helped him make his breakthrough in 1933.

Advertising broche 'bauhaus wallpaper', design: Joost Schmidt, 1931. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.
Advertising broche 'bauhaus wallpaper', design: Joost Schmidt, 1931. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016.

Fischli also worked in the field of the fine arts (paintings and graphic work, and from 1944 on sculpture as well) and exhibition architecture. From 1933 to 1936, he was a member of the Abstraction–Création group of artists in Paris, and in 1937 he was one of the founding members of the Alliance, an association of Swiss artists. From 1944 to 1949, he was co-initiator and builder of the Pestalozzi children’s village in Trogen. He had previously distinguished himself with architectural projects such as the ‘Landi’ children’s adventure playground (1939) and the Gwad workers’ estate (1943–1944).

From 1954 to 1961, he was Director of the Arts and Crafts Museum in Zurich and head of the college of applied arts attached to it. Fischli received the City of Zurich’s Art Award in 1979, ten years before his death on 1 April 1989.

Text: Burckhard Kieselbach