Picture: Table fan IKA electric, 1950s
During the once again seemingly endless summer heatwave this year, fans were literally the height of cool, bringing fresh breezes to rooms and offices and boosting sales for manufacturers and retailers. In the DDR, they were once a commodity as scarce as new innovations in the manufacturing and trade sectors. However, even the fans themselves indicate periods in which the country’s product culture was experiencing a breath of fresh air. This was apparent in the 1960s, for example, when the “chemistry programme” gained traction within the national economy, and when the plastic and rubber that enriched and embellished everyday life began to come from places other than Schkopau, the usual centre of production for such materials. If up to that point, table fans had looked similar to their predecessors – for instance, the trademark association IKA electrica’s exemplar from the 1950s – then their more eye-catching successors were responsible for gradually revolutionising product ranges. This was done first through lively, cheerful Bakelite grains, and later through completely new designs that were now created not only by factory workers, but also by trained industrial designers.
Picture: Bakelite table fan made by VEB WTB Dresden, 1961/62
One of them was Hans Merz, a receptacle designer who lectured at the Institute for Industrial Design in Burg Giebichenstein in Halle. He created the Omega Type 7020 fan model, which was commissioned by the VEB Elektrowärme (Publicly Owned Enterprise for Electric Heating) in Altenburg and manufactured as a mass consumer product in subtly different variations over many years. It was used not only as a tabletop appliance, but also – as shown by this example here – in the driver’s cab of the Görlitz SVT train, which embarked on its maiden voyage in 1964 and was the most advanced high-speed train of its time in the DDR.
Picture: Table fan Omega 7020, Design: Hans Merz
Picture: Table fan in a train operator's cab of a SVT
Picture: Train of the DR (German Reich Railways) with table fan in the cab
Günter Höhne grew up in the DDR and is the author of several books about DDR design such as “Penti, Erika und Bebo Sher”, “Wohnungen für alle: Vom Leben im Plattenbau” (Apartments for everyone: About life in prefabricated concrete buildings) and “Das große Lexikon: DDR-Design” (The Big encyclopedia: DDR Design). His books were published by Komet Verlag and can partly be purchased in our museum shop.
You can find more articles about exciting design objects from the DDR under the category “DDR Design” in our blog.