Appliances: Bowled Over
French designer Philippe Starck describes his designs as an attempt to bring poetry and surprise to the otherwise mundane. If not poetic, his design of Duravit’s new headquarters and design center in the Black Forest town of Hornberg, Germany, is certainly surprising. The building’s facade, a mixture of glass and stainless steel panels, serves as the backdrop for a toilet—glistening white and standing three stories tall. Closer inspection reveals that the toilet’s bowl is actually a terrace accessible from the design center, a gallery of the bath company’s products that is open to the public. Like the terrace, Starck’s latest Duravit collection, Starck X, displays his flair for incorporating an element of wit into the designs of items—sinks, faucets, toilets—that serve the most practical purposes.
The building and the bath line commemorate 10 years of collaboration, from 1994 to 2004, between Starck and Duravit, a relationship that began with the designer’s creation of the Starck 1 suite. The collection featured refreshing interpretations of basic means of water distribution; he rendered the washbasin as a countertop vessel, the bucket as a minimalist toilet, and the pump as sleek shower and lav fittings. Three other collections followed before Duravit chairman Franz Kook invited Starck to design the Hornberg facility and this latest collection of bath fixtures, furniture, and fittings (the latter for Hansgrohe Axor). The name X is meant to be a double entendre, says Tim Schroeder, president of Duravit’s U.S. operations. “We celebrated 10 years of collaborating with Starck last year,” he says. “It also represents an unknown factor as in mathematics, a variable if you will.”
Although it is evocative of the original Starck 1, the X line, according to Schroeder, represents an even higher level of refinement. “The technical elements in this collection are phenomenal,” notes Schroeder, citing such manufacturing challenges as producing the platinum finish for the interior of the lav. (Glazed white or yellow finishes also are available.) “It is tougher than stainless steel,” he explains. “A metallic finish on a ceramic surface will show every possible flaw, much like a mirror that distorts an image if it has the slightest convex or concave [element], so the surface had to be very precise.”
Two basic lav silhouettes—one shallow and square atop console legs or a storage unit, the other a deep bucket resting on a cube—come in several sizes and configurations, and the sleek, polished chrome tap for each lav design is operated with a control reminiscent of a joystick. The toilet and bidet also are shaped like cubes.
The bathtub, which is spacious enough for two, is the collection’s centerpiece. Starck included a trough with an overflow drain around the tub’s perimeter. Nothwithstanding the trough’s aesthetic appeal—it can be lined with white stones or wood decking that LEDs illuminate from below—
its practical purpose will be what captivates those who enjoy deep soaking or lots of splashing.
Duravit’s Starck X bathtub features a receptacle around its perimeter that drains overflow and, when lined with LEDs, illuminates.