Minding a blaring gap within London’s underground network, the Battersea Power Station has resided on the Thames riverfront since the 1930s. Decommissioned in 1983, the centrally located industrial site with a Grade II listing prompted numerous piecemeal attempts to breathe new life into its tired premises. Not a single effort was fruitful until 2012, when the 42-acre was snatched up like the stones in a game of jacks by a consortium of Malaysian investors comprising SP Setia, Sime Darby and Employees Provident Fund. The predictable course of action ensued. Architects with star status were summoned to add buildings and public spaces to Rafael Viñoly’s master plan. By 2025, a lively urban quarter with a holistic mix of offices, shops and residences – to the tune of 4353 dwellings, with price tags starting at about ₤338,000 – will revitalize the Battersea, Nine Elms and the surrounding area.

Phase 1 included 865 apartments in buildings designed by dRMM and SimpsonHaugh, all of which were sold within four days of their appearance on the market. To be implemented according to the architects’ specifications, the interiors required a high degree of luxury, right down to the bathroom fittings. Laufen worked closely with the project team which, in addition to the starchitects and the development manager for the Battersea Power Station Development Company, included construction outfit Carillion and the pods’ manufacturer, Deba. As Deba’s bathroom-solution partner, Laufen translated the architects’ bathroom design intent into reality. Laufen aimed for unique pieces that would satisfy both quantitative and qualitative requirements, would have a low tolerance of error, and would fit within a targeted budget. For the 1242 bathrooms needed for Battersea Power Station’s Phase 1, only a supplier with big enough facilities could produce bespoke designs at such a scale – and on schedule.

Each of the 1242 ‘pods’ contains a newly launched toilet from the Kartell by Laufen line, Laufen’s Sentec mineral-composite washbasin, and the company’s Marbond shower tray.

Collaboration between Laufen and German manufacturer Deba led to the solution: prefabricated units fully furnished with a variety of top-quality customized built-in bathroom components and standard products. Each of these ‘pods’ contains a newly launched toilet from the Kartell by Laufen line, Laufen’s Sentec mineral-composite washbasin, and the company’s Marbond shower tray. Along with countertops and furniture, the pods arrived at the site ready for quick installation in 96 configurations.

With headquarters in Laufen, close to Basel, the 124-year-old Swiss company is a long-time manufacturer of ceramic sanitaryware. ‘We have evolved into a provider of complete bathrooms that include all essential product families: toilets, washbasins, furniture, bathtubs, shower trays, faucets – the full range,’ says Marc Viardot, Laufen’s director of marketing and products. A production company that went on to become the renowned bathroom specialist it is today, Laufen publishes a comprehensive catalogue of standard products with corresponding dimensions, plus an added bonus: the ability to create anything the customer desires.

A design by Ludovica and Roberto Palomba, the Kartell by Laufen collection boasts a sleek modern aesthetic. 

Laufen presented its Bespoke project portfolio – and its involvement with the Battersea Power Station – in a 400-sqm booth at Salone del Mobile 2016. ‘With Bespoke,’ says Viardot, ‘we are offering projects like Battersea something completely different – a solution that covers all possibilities.’ He talks about the company’s well-established use of technology for certain materials and products. ‘We’re learning more and more with every project. We take an open-minded approach in an effort to help our partners find the right solution.

‘For years, we practised our trade and successfully realized larger-scale projects. It’s a very simple equation: the bathroom is small, and space is becoming more expensive, so you have to use space as efficiently as possible. At Laufen,’ he says, ‘efficiency is not only function and size, but also aesthetics, proportions and quality. And to make ideas real is one of our passions and ambitions. The solutions we offer give us many opportunities to improve the intelligence of the organization and the flexibility of our operation, among other things. Another benefit is the motivation we get from these projects – to be more equipped for future developments in terms of mass customization.’ Laufen treats any interaction with architects, designers and developers as a step in the company’s ongoing learning process: ‘As we learn more about our clients’ needs, we can incorporate that knowledge into our standard portfolio and individualize and improve our product offer.’

The company’s bespoke projects require a high level of engagement and understanding. To achieve its goal, Laufen is committed to an ongoing development training programme designed to equip its project teams in this area. ‘Bespoke gives us the opportunity to turn new ideas into positive product solutions,’ says Ilker Hussein, Laufen’s commercial director and head of the company’s global projects team. ‘Good product solutions have a legacy impact on others down the road. We faced a challenge at Battersea, a project that involved 700 shower trays, with 19 different dimensions. We created master moulds from our Marbond product, which we trimmed to different sizes. We were able to do this in a very aesthetic and cost-effective way.’

Laufen understands what this kind of expediency and professionalism means for architects, clients and the industry: a shift in the way projects are built. ‘In the past,’ says Hussein, ‘a manufacturer would say sorry, it’s not in our range. We’re using our expertise to provide solutions. Bespoke is a holistic business model that combines collaboration, engagement and flexibility. If we really want to inspire people, the only way to do it is with substantive engagement, as part of a project team, and there’s no better vehicle for engagement than Bespoke by Laufen.’ 


This project was featured in Frame 113. Find your copy in the Frame Store.