Until 1998, the building was part of the premises for the company KBC Manufaktur Koechlin Baumgartner und Cie. The former block print building is a cultural heritage of the textile industry in the border triangle. Until 1929, high-quality materials were printed by hand on long printing tables using wooden moulds.
The four-storey building, which was built in 1854, was registered as a listed building in 1996. The building was renovated by a private investment group within 14 months following the restructuring plan of Lörrach-based architects wilhelm and partners, and given a new purpose. It is 90 metres long and has a total usable area of 4,200 square metres. Windows, ceilings, attics, the roof and all details were reconstructed to meet modern standards while maintaining their historical appearance.
As of April 2002, the building has been the headquarters of the Innocel Innovation Centre in Lörrach, operated by the business development department of the city of Lörrach. Innocel is a local community of start-ups and already established companies in the life sciences, medical technology and information technology sectors.
The oldest textile printing method is block printing using wooden moulds. In the former block printing building, various qualities of materials were stretched out on tables up to 60 metres long for printing. Each block printer had a type of coloured ink pad (chassis) and a ceramic pot filled with printing ink. The wooden moulds with handles were first pressed by the printer into the chassis, then onto the length of fabric. In order for the colour to evenly transfer to the fabric, the printer tapped the back of the mould with a heavy iron mallet. The mould was then placed back into the chassis and pressed onto the fabric again to follow the pattern already printed. So-called spreader children stood next to the printer and would refill the ink after each time it was pressed into the chassis and had to be evenly spread. A printer would press the mould onto the fabric 1,100 to 1,500 times a day on average, two to three times a minute. This not only required plenty of muscle strength but also skill, precise movements and permanent concentration. The block printing method was used by KBC until 1929.
Preparation and finishing steps
Before the raw material could be printed it had to be torched, bleached, washed, dried and stretched out to the fabric width. During the finishing steps, the dyes attached to the fibres and the thickening agent were washed out. The colours were only revealed in their true splendour once the fabric had been steamed, washed and dried. In the following finishing step, the textiles were refined to give them shine and grip, and were processed further as per the customer's requirements. During the final checks in the factory, every metre of fabric was inspected one last time under inspection machines with light underneath before being dispatched.
The elaborately carved wooden moulds made from pear wood or boxwood were produced by skilled engravers. They would carve the pattern designs out of the wood. Later, metal pins, wires and cast brass moulds (stereotypes) were used. Individual moulds had to be produced for each printing colour. KBC printed individual patterns with up to 20 moulds. In 1881, it was reported that the engravers at KBC produced around 6,000 block print moulds.
(Source: Ulrike Konrad, „Vom Veredeln der Stoffe – wie Textildrucke entstehen“, in: Gedruckte Träume, 250 Jahre KBC Lörrach, Volume 6 of Lörracher Hefte, 2003, pp. 76-88)