Tick. Tick. Tick. That’s the sound of Tik-Tap, the design that won jumpthegap®’s special We Are Water Foundation Prize, an entry by South Koreans Soyeon Lee and Hyemin Min. To raise awareness of the acute water shortage in developing countries, the designers chose a simple, powerful solution in which storytelling plays a key role for the Roca International Design Contest.

A timer on a shower head brings the daily reality of having to walk for miles to find water to the affluent world of our Western bathroom. The story is communicated by Golombo, a little boy in a developing African country whose pencil-drawn shape literally walks around the shower head as the timer counts down. Lee agrees that Golombo makes turning off the hot shower a lot more rewarding and says she takes shorter showers since she came up with the idea for the design. In Lee’s case, the ticking is temporarily provided by an egg timer she’s been using in her own bathroom. Lee and Min, students at the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan, came up with the idea while they were brainstorming in one of their kitchens: the flashing oven timer made them aware of the direct emotional impact of observing the progression of time. 

By simply adding a timer to a shower head, Soyeon Lee and Hyemin Min – winners of the We Are Water Foundation Prize – bring the daily reality of having to walk for miles to find water to the Western bathroom.

No futuristic ingenuity, but a smart solution to a concrete problem. Exactly why Roca created jumpthegap®. This biennial design competition, which takes place in collaboration with the Barcelona Design Centre (Barcelona Centre de Disseny (BCD)), focuses on the future of, evidently, bathroom spaces. Its goal? To promote the industry by unleashing a new generation of free-spirited designers upon everything in and around the bathroom. It’s all about thinking beyond the obvious and taking a fresh look at existing interior solutions and bathroom rituals, about taking an out-of-the-box approach to long-standing issues.

The three categories, Professional, Student and the special We Are Water Foundation Prize, centre on design as a lever for sustainable development in the economic, social and cultural domains. Final entries ranged from a public urinal to a futuristic shower faucet in which showering itself, collectively, generates energy. Ecociety is another finalist with a strong social component; Bath-Theatre was conceived with an eye to the wellbeing of others as well. In the latter case, that of homeless people who still get to shower regularly thanks to this car-mounted bathroom.

Anyone who manages to reduce the essentials to a powerful, simple message or experience has succeeded

‘Ultimately, it’s a competition that tries to propose conceptual solutions for the bathroom of the future,’ says Roca brand communication director and We Are Water Foundation director Xavier Torras. Torras looks back approvingly over the second edition of ‘his’ award, created to give sustainable design an extra impetus. ‘You can see that this year, designers in all categories have given thought to the reduction of water consumption. It’s a complex domain, with complicated issues. Anyone who manages to reduce the essentials to a powerful, simple message or experience has succeeded.’

Cover image and top: Eduardo Cardenas’s Morpho – which topped the Professional category – is a series of elastic modular floor tiles that change in accordance with the needs of the user. | Bottom: Winner of the Student category, Care Bee by Janos Priskin is a sustainable, compact and cost-effective bathroom solution that provides water, steam and skincare products.

There were also other aspects of this eighth edition of jumpthegap® that were successful. The extraordinary international character, for example: this year designers from more than 130 countries participated worldwide. ‘What also strikes me is that every edition, the level is up,’ says jury member and general director of BCD Isabel Roig. According to Ruy Ohtake, a Brazilian architect and this edition’s jury chairman, the entries represent ‘a new generation of artists and designers who are educated in a very interesting way, with a close relationship to the industry’.

Strikingly, the vast majority of entries reflect on sustainability as a matter of course and show high levels of social awareness. Perhaps designing circularly could make you stand out a couple of years ago, but to the current generation, thinking about sustainable ways of designing is no longer an added value or distinctive quality, but simply the standard.


This is an edited version of a report that will be featured in our forthcoming Jan – Feb 2020 issue, Frame 132.