WOBO History

A beer bottle standing upright is, surprisingly, up to code, bearing 50 kg per square centimeter. But bottles are not easily vertically stacked. Laid on their side, though, they crush too easily. Habraken’s solution was to develop vertically stackable Chianti-like bottles with long necks and recessed sides that nested into and supported each other. It was a brilliant compromise, but Heineken’s marketing department rejected it as “effeminate”—a curious description considering that the bottle consisted of two bulbous compartments surmounted by a long shaft. We can only assume that Habraken did not anticipate why the men of Curaçao might not want to hold this up to their lips.

So Habraken went horizontal. His next design was for a thick rectangular bottle—much closer to Heineken’s original notion of a brick that held beer. The bottom was dimpled in a pattern identical to the bottle’s stubby neck, so that the top of one bottle would interlock with the bottom of the next. The sides had a nubbled surface, to make them both easier to hold and to apply mortar onto. Still, there were some trade-offs: the glass had to be thickened for the disadvantaged horizontal orientation, and its blockier corners made it more susceptible to chipping in shipment.

Heineken actually produced 100,000 WOBOs in a test run (or enough to build roughly 100 small houses), and even constructed a whole home out of them near Freddy Heineken’s villa in Noordwijk, but the bottle never actually made it to market, most likely because customers of the 1960s preferred the feel and look of the rounded bottle.

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Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.

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