FRANKFURT – Concepts of designated spaces are simply social and cultural conventions, subject to change. Now, work is no longer confined to the office and wellbeing is a priority in all areas of our lives, not just spas and gyms. Our lifestyles are changing and this is affecting the design and layout of modern residences. The bathroom is no exception.
Commissioned by Kaldewei, Werner Aisslinger and Tina Bunyaprasit of Studio Aisslinger set out to explore how modern living can inform new sanitary collections. When we meet at ISH, they share their vision on the future of the home, and how their newly released bathtubs and washbasins fit in.
The concept of the home has been the subject of some of your more conceptual exhibitions, including Home of the Future at Haus am Waldsee. What was the role of the bathroom there and has it influenced your new collections for Kaldewei?
WERNER AISSLINGER: Firstly, from a spatial point of view we think there can be more fantasy in the bathroom. It could be a more poetic and friendly room. Nowadays, if you go into a hotel room, the bathroom is very rational and rectangular. We believe in a more playful approach.
There were two aspects in the bathroom at Home of the Future that were quite interesting: the other one was that we tried to work with soft materials. Funnily enough, in the place where you are most often naked – the bathroom – we tend to use the toughest and most uncomfortable materials, like tile and marble. Of course this has a functional reason, but with the finishes and coatings that are available today, it has become possible to integrate high-tech fabrics that are flexible and soft, just as outdoor wear is becoming more tactile.
For Kaldewei we considered both approaches. We are bringing more green into the bathroom with plant-holders, and the Tricolore collection reflects the playfulness we are rooting for. The bathtub is enamelled in two colours in contrast to the mainly monochrome conventional designs. And the shape takes cues from the traditional freestanding lion-clawfoot tub, but updates it in a fanciful way.
If you have a display in your faucet or bathtub, people will laugh at it in five years
So in a way, it’s bringing the feel of a living room into the bathroom?
TINA BUNYAPRASIT: Yes, it’s a development that we’ve seen over the past few years. The bathroom is not just the space where you do the functional washing of your body, it is more of a wellness area. A private oasis. Pieces from the living room are diffusing into the bathroom to create a more comfortable atmosphere. If you walk around ISH, you can see more and more wooden surfaces. Not just cold ceramics. Bathrooms are getting more furnished.
WA: The bathroom is also the only non-digital space in our house (and let’s hope it stays that way). We are constantly connected, whether we’re sitting on the couch, lying in bed, or cooking dinner. The bathroom however is still very elemental. It’s kind of an archetypical space that is not influenced by technology that much. It is a nice space to keep analogue.
Yet there are quite a few brands presenting at ISH that are introducing digital features…
WA: To bring technology into the bathroom is a risk. Our iPhones are outdated after a year but bathrooms are typically renovated only every 20-30 years. So if you have a display in your faucet or bathtub, people will laugh at it in five years. The bathroom won’t be able to adapt to new-generation electronics fast enough. But of course technological advances like material innovations can have a big impact on bathroom design.
So in what way does your new collection for Kaldewei reflect changing lifestyles?
WA: Housing is becoming more hybrid. Private residences are moving more or less towards a studio loft design. Having separate spaces with very distinct functions is no longer viable. Functions overlap. We combine work and personal life. Everything is merging and it’s affecting both the residential and hospitality scenes. It’s a collage world.
We think there can be more fantasy in the bathroom
But in the last 20 years the bathroom has become less flexible. Everything is connected to the architecture: tubs are built-in and our sinks are becoming part of tiled corners… Even though having loose objects that you can move around fits the zeitgeist much more, and also responds to shrinking apartment sizes. The Grid series we designed for Kaldewei has an open wire structure that supports the bathtub and washbasin and at the same time gives the collection an airy, weightless look. It gives the feeling that it can move with you, so you might decide to place it in your bedroom. You can also equip it with individual objects of your choice, attach products, accessories and even plant-holders onto the grid, collage-style.
Didn’t the idea of hybrid housing also guide your recent House of Wonders exhibition at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich?
Studio Aisslinger's House of Wonders
WA: Yes, there we combined spaces for relaxation and recreation with work and industry, blurring the separate functions. There was a workspace in the same area as the bathtub for example. People have already long been combining their kitchen and living areas. This idea of combined spaces will only spread further across our houses, offices and hospitality venues.
House of Wonders will be on show at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich until 17 September 2017.
Werner Aisslinger will share five career-defining moments in Frame’s July/August issue, as part of our ongoing portrait series Milestones.