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The colourful plastic Uten.Silo wall storage unit is one of the best known designs of the 1960s. With its differently shaped pockets, metal hooks and clips it is practical in kitchens, bathrooms and offices and comes in red, black or white.
The unit was created by Dorothee Becker (born in Aschaffenburg, Germany, 1938) who never received any formal training in either design or the arts.
The 1960s were the decade of plastic. Danish designer Verner Panton created his eponymous S-shaped chair out of it and Italian companies, such as Kartell and Artemide, commissioned brightly coloured pieces that would not have been possible without the material. Married to Ingo Maurer, a designer who specialised in lights, Becker came up with Uten.Silo in 1968.
“My father owned a drugstore and photo shop in Aschaffenburg,” she said. “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.”
According to Becker, the piece was originally designed as a toy to teach children about geometric shapes.
The Uten.Silo went on sale in 1969 after Maurer invested 250,000 Deutschmarks in a metal injection mould to manufacture the piece. It was, he said later, “an incredible amount of money for our young company”. The company was called Design M and Becker subsequently made other pieces for it but none was as successful as her first creation.
The Uten.Silo caught the mood for plastic and proved a great success in both Europe and the US, where it was sold as the Wall-All. A smaller version was produced which also did well until the 1973-1974 oil crisis when plastic largely fell out of fashion.
Vitra reissued both models in 2002.