Switched on

On a freezing day in the heart of the Black Forest, architect Sergei Tchoban is standing in the shadow of a huge white toilet.

It is fitting really, when you consider that Middle East Architect is not speaking to Tchoban about his most recent project – the tallest tower in Russia – but about bathrooms, faucets and cabinets, about the elements that make up Esplanade, his latest range for bathroom design giant Duravit.

The aforementioned toilet adorns the walls of Duravit’s headquarters in Germany, where designers, clients and journalists have been brought to witness the launch of a range of high-profile architects including Philippe Stark, Tchoban and Matteo Thun.

But moving from engineering 400 metre-high towers to water-saving faucets
is not that different, Tchoban offers, and in fact the details – both in our bathrooms and our buildings – is an often neglected aspect in 21st century architecture.

“We have lost our love of the detail. We think of everything in big forms and big plans and designs, but we don’t think any more about the human scale. We need to come back to the small elements, where your touch and feeling is the same as it was 200 years ago,” he says.

Besides, he adds, everyone spends a great deal of time in the bathroom.
Franz Kook, CEO at Duravit, would certainly agree with him. Launching Duravit’s 2011 range – which is themed on the concept of opulence – Kook boasts that the company had never had so many designers working for the company at the same time.

“We’ve never had such an Armada of new bathroom concepts”, says Kook, pointing to 14 new projects and four new design lines themed on the concept of opulence. Discussing his range, Tchoban says: “It’s luxury in a very reasonable way. So it’s not lavish or over indulgent.

It’s a very flexible and nice design that fits into different environments. Bathrooms are always in the attentions of clients, because bathrooms are where people spend a lot of their time, regardless of how much money they have.

“Contemporary opulence is about allowing that little bit more yet keeping one’s feet firmly on the ground.”

Matteo Thun’s new range for Duravit was unveiled next, for both private and commercial bathrooms. Wood is the most important and popular feature of the Onto range, and consoles and the fronts of tall cabinets, low cabinets and vanity units are all made of plywood.

Thun believes that cost engineering is increasingly important in the 21st century, and that wood is a cheap but attractive material to serve this purpose.

Last up was designer Philippe Starck, who was in Germany to unveil his new range of washbasins, coming in circular, square and triangular forms.
Starck’s new geometric approach also redefines the mirrors and mirror cabinets. All variants feature a “light square” which provides for a very soft light diffused through a special film.

“It’s unusual today to buy something and after six years the style is still good and the quality is still good. But the idea now is to keep everything for a long time. Now we don’t only buy for ourselves, we buy for our children and grandchildren,” Starck said.

“It’s very important to refine the quality of the product because the quality is the standard of tomorrow.”