Olivetti Studio 42 | “macchina per scrivere”

Vintage typewriters have long fascinated me – both for their elegance and mechanical ingenuity. For years I have been passively looking for one to buy, and earlier this year stumbled upon a fabulous pre-WWII Olivetti MP1 model at a small antiques market in Florence, Italy. The MP1 was introduced by Olivetti in 1932 as the company’s first portable model. Because of its rarity and excellent condition the seller wanted 350 euros for it. I decided not to buy it, but the elegant machine stayed on my mind. Then just weeks later there was another, much larger antiques market in Florence where a rather scruffy but kindly gentleman offered a very dusty but perfectly preserved and operational Olivetti Studio 42 model for sale – for a mere 25 euros!

Olivetti introduced the Studio 42 model just three years after the MP1, in 1935, as a semi-portable model. The Studio 42 is slightly more robust than the MP1, but is still fairly compact with an open keyboard layout with classic round keys. The design is very functional and highly elegant – from the curved typewriter arms to the beautiful chromed letters OLIVETTI. The mechanics were developed by engineer Ottavio Luzzati while architects Figini & Pollini and Bauhaus-designer Xanti Schawinsky were responsible for the overall design.

Olivetti Studio 42 with German keyboard

Olivetti Studio 42 with German keyboard

The Olivetti Studio 42 was produced with different keyboard configurations for various countries around the world from 1935 up until the early 1950s. It was even favoured in the
Vatican as the personal machine for Pope Pius XII. Today an Olivetti Studio 42 can be found in the permanent collection of the Triennale Design Museum in Milan. My dusty machine, which probably sat unused in a shed somewhere for years, came with the original case with chromed lock and leather handle. The typewriter can be secured into the case to carry it around – although because of its weight this was not an easy task to carry it across Florence back to my apartment. Now all it needs is a thorough cleaning and a new 3-color (black-red-green) ribbon and it’s as good as new.

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Heinke-Zwickau | “deckenfächer”

My first visit to Berlin, in the spring of 2008, was very memorable. Former communist East-Berlin is particularly vibrant with lots of cool retro shops and great cafés and restaurants. Our search for a good Berlin breakfast through the cold morning air brought us to Café Gorki Park , one of the oldest cafés in Berlin. The breakfast was delicious; but what really struck me was the anachronistic communist relic on their ceiling: a beautiful vintage ceiling fan shaped like a streamlined torpedo and painted in an old school hammer finish. I took a photo and with some determination managed to track down and buy a couple of these vintage “deckenfächers”, one in silver and one with a green-blue hammer finish.

Heinke-Zwickau “deckenfächer”

Heinke-Zwickau “deckenfächer”

The streamlined torpedo fan was built in the 1950s by the Heinke company from Zwickau in East-Germany (DDR); home of the classic Trabant car. Heinke seems to have specialised in building machines for factories in the Eastern Block; such the Heinke
“deckenfächer” is a heavy-duty device intended for industrial use. And it is a typical communist product, which were characterized by either indestructible or highly fragile poor construction. The fan itself is definitely built to last with parts cast from solid iron and aluminium, and weighing a staggering 17.5 kilograms – I had to attach it to the ceiling dismantled in parts, which was still quite a job. The housing of the original 5-speed switch is on the other end of the spectrum; made from poor quality very brittle Bakelite.

But who is the designer of this rugged yet elegant piece of communist machinery?

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Height ± 40 cm | diameter ± 138 cm | 220 V | 145 Watt | 180 rpm

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