- Place of origin:
- Credit Line:
Given by Heineken Collection Foundation
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Inspired by the glass bottles he saw littered on the beaches of the Antilles islands, Heineken brewery chairman, Alfred Heineken asked the architect John Habraken to design a ‘brick that holds beer’.
Heineken wanted to produce a bottle that would also serve as a useful building material, to eliminate the amount of litter and waste produced. The first models were produced in 1962 and were designed to be used without mortar and stacked vertically, to meet the strength requirements of a building material as imposed by building regulators. However, Habraken’s first design did not satisfy Heineken’s vision for what the brick bottle should be, and, worried it would tarnish the Heineken brand and the firm’s corporate image this first design was never used.
Habraken’s second revised design consisted of a bottle with flat sides, two of which have rows of bumps which aid the grip for the mortar when the bottles are stacked on top of one another. The short neck was designed so that it could slot into the corresponding concave slot at the base of another bottle. With the application of cementing material and silicone additive the bottles could be used to build rigid wall structures. This iteration of the bottle was intended to be used alongside timber or corrugated iron as structure for the windows and roof respectively. Heineken arranged for a small summer house to be built on the grounds of his villa at Noordwijk, near Amsterdam as a demonstration of its effectiveness.
In 1964, Heineken had a total of 100,000 of these bottles (both 35 cl. and 50 cl.) made by the Vereenigde Glasfabrieken in Leerdam, and had this design patented world-wide.
This collaboration between a major commercial entity and an architectural designer illustrates a need to address environmental concerns and the threat of unbridled consumption. Initially developed in response to the lack of affordable building materials and inadequate living conditions that affected many living on the Antilles islands, the WOBO is now seen as a pioneering example of industrialized recycling and simple adaptive reuse of materials.
These bottles were acquired as part of the Shekou Project, an international partnership between the V&A and China Merchant Shekou Holdings (CMSK) to open a new cultural platform called Design Society in Shekou. The bottles were included in the inaugural exhibition, ‘Values of Design’, in the V&A Gallery at Design Society in a section of the exhibition which deals with the notions of Cost and Design for Distribution.
A bottle made from green glass with a short neck, and a grid of bumps on each flat side.
Place of Origin
Height: 14.0 cm, Width: 7.5 cm, Depth: 6.5 cm
Object history note
The WOBO bottles were included in ‘Values of Design’ at the V&A Gallery, Design Society in Shenzhen, China in 2017.
'WOBO (World Bottle)', designed by N. John Habraken, 1963. Green glass beer bottle. 35cl
Labels and date
The Netherlands, 1963
Inspired by glass bottles he saw littered on beaches, Heineken asked John Habraken to design a 'brick that holds beer'. The result was the WOBO, an interlockingbottle that could be re-used for construction. Tackling both the problem of litter and housing, the object also reduced distribution costs because it could serve two purposes. 
Interiors; Household objects; Shekou; Values of Design; Design Society