How Axor and Philippe Starck have been working together for 20 years to bring change to the bathroom.
Why has design become so important in our lives? And why has design assumed a key role, especially in the development of the sanitary industry, over the last few decades? Philippe Starck, one of the leading designers of our time, employs design in his mission to bring more beauty to our lives, to make our lives better. For this reason, one of his goals has been to develop hotel design around the globe into a kind of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, an all-embracing work of art. His work shows what design is able to achieve if it is used as a means to break down traditional, customary patterns and norms. In the modern bathrooms of today we can at last see what for so long has been concealed behind the ancient veneer of standard mirror tiles and stereotypical ceramics: it is still a highly functional space where high-quality materials, color and sensual haptics combine with beautiful shapes. That this space lets us experience water in its many and varied forms and allows us to spend time by ourselves makes it a precious retreat in an ever more fast-moving world for many of us.
A synthesis of creative instinct and entrepreneurship
Before design can shape our perceptions and have a positive effect on our everyday culture, it must find a suitable expression for a need, a zeitgeist, or a new functionality. This is certainly more easily said than done, of course, since what is “right” in terms of shape and the necessary functionalities is much easier to identify in retrospect than it is during the process of design itself. This is why no substantial changes would occur in the world around us, were it not for the active engagement of exceptional individuals who are able to express their personalities during such creative moments. Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Arne Jacobsen, Dieter Rams and Jasper Morrison are just some of the names we associate with lasting changes in our aesthetic awareness.
Driving such evolutionary change calls for designers who have a vision and a strong creative instinct, but it also requires entrepreneurs with the gift of imagination and courage. There could hardly be a more fitting example of such a personality than the exceptional designer Philippe Starck who, in working with the company Hansgrohe, at that time still headed by Klaus Grohe, completely changed our idea of what a bathroom is and can be. He juxtaposed the traditional wet cell with the “Salon d´Eau” – a living space with water – which he created together with Axor, Duravit and Hoesch.
Philippe Starck may not have been the first designer to bring change to our bathrooms, but rarely had anyone done so in such a radical manner, and been quite so successful.
The establishment of the designer brand
At Hansgrohe, Philippe Starck encountered a corporate culture where an emphasis on good design has been a permanent feature ever since the end of the 1960s. At that time, most bathrooms were still conceived as functional wet cells. The idea of the bathroom as a space in which to retreat and enjoy a feeling of well-being was still quite foreign to most people. As was the concept of using bathroom design to express our personality.
It was precisely because the people at Hansgrohe recognised the potential of the bathroom as a space for living that the company decided in 1992 to establish its own designer brand, Axor. Since then, Axor has consistently built and expatiated on Hansgrohe’s experience in design. However, the brand also developed its own, novel approach: anyone seeking to play a part in the evolution of the bathroom would do well to work with product designers, interior designers and architects. To this very day, the diversity of design partners from these fields with whom Axor has been working so successfully is quite unique. This approach is informed by the conviction that real progress can be achieved more readily of all the parties involved are given as much creative freedom as possible, at the same time as being engaged in an open, respectful dialogue. For some 20 years now, Axor has been working with the world’s leading architects and designers to develop visions of the bathroom as a space for living. The Axor collections offer a variety of sustainable solutions for the realisation of the personal bathroom and sensible interaction with water.
Axor concepts and collections – bespoke solutions for handling water in the bathroom
The Axor Starck collection launched in 1994 led the way. The image of a bathroom with free-standing bathtub, wash basin and toilet featuring the mixers in this collection, all in a space flooded with natural light, without conventional tiling but decked out in natural materials instead, went around the world. This image still shapes our understanding of modern bathroom design to this day, not least because it not only presented the single products in isolation, but as part of the architecture of the entire space. It would not be inappropriate to refer to the Salon d´Eau as a kind of “Big Bang”, heralding not only the advent of what has endured as a partnership between Philippe Starck and Axor for 20 years, but also ushering in an era in which the bathroom is appreciated as a personal space intentionally shaped by strong design – a preoccupation that is still a distinguishing feature of Axor today. The Axor Starck collection has become iconic in the realm of bathroom design, and worldwide it is still among the most successful collections ever developed by Axor together with Philippe Starck.
Acting on a belief that good design results in products that are not only beautiful to look at but also embody high quality, Axor and its design partners develop solutions that satisfy the highest aesthetic and technological standards, and which allow us to interact with water respectfully and with a high level of awareness, at the same time as letting us enjoy the experience of water in ever new ways. In this way, Axor and the outstanding designers with whom the company chooses to work have been playing an active role in shaping the transformation of the bathroom into a personal retreat for 20 years. Later this year, Axor will be opening up a new chapter in the history of the bathroom: in the fall 2012, the designer brand together with Philippe Starck will be presenting a new collection, one that is likely to once again set new benchmarks in the way we interact with and experience water.
Impressions of the twenty-year cooperation with Philippe Starck – along with some hints as to what Axor and Starck may have in mind with regard to their forthcoming collection – will be appearing on the Axor Facebook pages starting in July 2012.