Author

Nils Becker
Zürich   Switzerland

Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects


We analyse the trends at this year's ISH in Frankfurt
 

Even though for 50 years it has been one of the world's leading trade fairs for the building industry, at first glance all the things which nowadays lie behind the three letters ISH are not immediately obvious. "The bathroom as a world of experience; building, energy and climate technology; and renewable energy" - the slightly long-winded supplement to the title - tries to capture the full range of the themes which are covered, but at the same time it displays the fair's basic dilemma.
Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Axor Urquiloa by Partricia Urquiola for Axor Hansgrohe

Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Axour Massaud by Jean-Marie Massaud for Axor Hansgrohe
to the Axor collection to the Axor collection

Fifty years ago the bathroom was still the domain of the plumbers, with customers looking for solutions which would be functional, practical and make the best use of the available space. The bathroom was basically the location where hygienic functions were carried out. In its design successive generations of architects restricted themselves to measuring and equipping this space in accordance with the standard specifications of the universally applied 'Neufert' architectural guidelines.
Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Supernova by Sieger Design for Dornbracht
to the Dornbracht collection to the Dornbracht collection

Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
A combination with wood by Laufen

The 'Inter-loo' nickname which architects apply to ISH is a reflection of the image which the event still has today with many planners, and only those who have no choice actually attend.
However, this is doing the fair an injustice, because in our present-day lifestyle the bathroom has become a place where we spend time and relax. The extensive demand for the stimulation of all the senses by means of water, scent, light and warmth has within a short space of time aroused the bathroom from its slumbers and released it from its 'wet space' image. No other area of the home and hotel layout has experienced such radical change in recent years. New rituals in our lives have broken down the clear division between the living area, the bedroom and the functions of the bathroom, which has led in a large degree to new demands being made on today's architecture and products.
Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Sundeck by Duravit
to the Duravit collection to the Duravit collection

Although in past years concepts for open-plan bathroom areas with a living area character were already making their appearance at ISH, the fittings they contained were still the classical objects of white bathroom ceramics and chrome-plated taps. At this year's ISH, however, we discovered a new development which we regard as a really significant one: classical bathroom products such as the bath, wash basin and WC are no longer just placed in the context of a living space, they are now themselves developing into furnishing elements which can be freely positioned within the room and are adopting the presence of living space furniture.
Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Tulip by Azzurra Ceramica

Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
The turkish manufacturer VitrA

Wash basins are fitted with a stand made of solid wood, while the base of the WC is provided with a casing of bamboo. The new self-confidence of sanitary equipment is also demonstrated by adventurous colours. Black, white and red are the dominant shades which have now even conquered the domain of bathroom fittings.
Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Philippe Starck for Duravit

Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Khroma by Erwin Himmel for Roca
to the Roca collection to the Roca collection

Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Bathtub with a rubber surface, Antonio Lupi
to the Antonio Lupi collection to the Antonio Lupi collection

Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Pura Vida by Phoenix Design for Duravit
to the Duravit collection to the Duravit collection

These changes can also be observed in the design of the products themselves. The new free-standing 'Water Lounge' bath by Hoesch is a classical chaise longue with a glass enclosure which can be filled for bathing. Also from Hoesch comes a whirlpool on casters designed by Michael Schmidt from Code 2 Design which, like any other piece of furniture, can be pushed out onto the terrace if required.
Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Kaldewei

Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Water Lounge by Hoesch

Together with its ceramics the bathroom's fittings and fixtures are also increasingly getting away from a formal idiom which has so far had a predominantly functional character. Just like decorative living area accessories, these fittings are developing into minor sculptures which are once more highlighting the transformation from sanitary object to item of furniture.
Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Freedom by Ross Lovegrove for VitrA

Sanitary fixtures as furniture, taps as sculptural objects
Hansalatrava by Hansa