Touching no longer allowed: the doorknob is now an object of suspicion.

When a pandemic meets everyday life and design and there is a hand involved in there somewhere, the alarm bells immediately start ringing for features editors. One product seems to have become particularly suspicious right now: the doorknob. Its disadvantage is that it must be touched in order to fulfil its function, and therein lies the problem. According to a recently presented study in the US, viruses might be able to last up to 72 hours on various surfaces, including doorknobs. Other experts contest this. Up to now the doorknob was an object that was especially close to architects and designers because it represented the proverbial finishing touch on the overall concept of a design idea. Whether Henry van de Velde, Walter Gropius or Dieter Rams, the list of people who have designed doorknobs is as long as it is illustrious. Even the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein designed a knob specially for the house of his sister, Margarethe Stonborough-Wittgenstein, in the 1920s. Doorknobs of course do more than regulate a door’s transition from closed to open, since their form and material can also make them provide a pleasing sensation for the hand. However, precisely this is the last thing users want right now. Gerhard Matzig’s feature for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Touching Is Archaic Insanity (in German), illustrates the relationship that we have with the doorknob and the no-touch alternatives that are on offer.

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