History of the handle


An increasingly design object, closely related to the hardware and lock of doors and windows, is the handle.

The history of art and architecture has not handed down a certain origin of handles: there are hypotheses, but we do not know exactly when handles with a mechanism that, by rotating, opens the sashes appeared.

There is one date, however: 1878, when African American inventor Osborn Dorsey registered the first patent for a handle in the United States. Although it is likely that similar mechanisms existed earlier, it is Dorsey who is normally credited with the invention of handles as we know them today.

Prior to that time, the handle consisted of a protrusion used to push or pull the door, while a padlock or latch was used to secure the dwelling.

Initially, the handle was not considered a design element, but simply a technical component, and its construction was left to the blacksmith.

The handle then became an element of personalization and distinction, and blacksmiths began to collaborate with artists who introduced more noble materials such as porcelain, wood, and ceramics.

With the advent of Art Nouveau, in the early 1900s, and thanks to the Belgian architect Victor Horta, handles became characterized by fluid shapes inspired by nature.

They thus became such an integral part of architecture that they were increasingly designed by architects rather than mere craftsmen.

In 1922, architect and designer Walter Gropius authored the first cylindrical door handle, still considered an icon of the 20th century and ever-present among the most important products that emerged in the age of modernism.

At about the same time in Austria, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein thought about and designed a doorknob for the house he designed for his sister Margaret. Engaged in the design for about a year, the result becomes the handle with the most common shape in modern design, a “bent cylindrical bar.”

Handle production becomes more widespread after World War II as many machines, previously set up for the production of weapons, are converted to produce handles.

In the 1950s Italian architect and designer Giò Ponti stated that “it is not the handle that has to adapt to use, it is the hand that thanks to its characteristics can adapt,” and began collaborating and designing the first models for the Olivari company. This resulted in the first design models, produced from brass or bronze bars and cast in the earth.

Later there were collaborations with other leading architects such as Franco Albini, Ignazio Gardella, Angelo Mangiarotti, Caccia Dominioni and the BBPRs that gave rise to the best-known designer handles.

Technologies evolved and in the 1970s, with the advent of new materials including plastic, there was a departure from tradition. Handles today are made of aluminum with fine, corrosion-resistant alloys or excellent brass or zamak alloys.

Different evolutions have been found, however, in the area of safety.

Early innovations include the keyed handle, which provides greater security than standard handles by preventing break-ins from the outside. Very similar is the push-button handle, which differs only in the latch mechanism and allows the handle to be unlocked by pressing the button.

Later, additional built-in security features were implemented, that prevented the hardware from being operated from the outside even without the use of keys or buttons.

Then came the more modern retractable handles for an extremely minimalist design. Among the most recent innovations are wi-fi handles equipped with an electromechanical locking mechanism managed directly from a phone App.