The German company of Duravit, founded at Hornberg in the Black Forest in 1817, today boasts nine factories producing bathroom fittings across the globe. To boost their brand image in the United States they chose Manhattan, New York, for a new showroom, inaugurated last November. This is the first such showroom on Madison Avenue to display bathroom layouts, washbasins and wellness products.
In designing this 590 sq m showroom German architects Schmutz & Partner went for a space with few features, one that would be recognizable yet changeable, flexible, imbued with a sense of lightness and movement. Their priority in this was colour, where the choice fell on a faint blue for walls, ceiling and floors.
Using a single colour on all surfaces increases spaciousness and gives a sense of uniformity, continuity, fluidity. This is enhanced by broad rectangular niches set into the walls at various heights as aids to product presentation. D-Cubes are set up inside the showroom - 3-D stage-sets reproducing corner portions of a room as a flexible setting for bathroom solutions showing off the various Duravit series and a range of tiles and interior décor.
The D-Cube back-walls are stout enough to mount bathroom ceramics on; where they back onto the street windows they serve as multimedia display panels inviting passersby in to visit the exhibition.
Between the D-Cubes wooden islands carry consultation and display desks: the basic colour is anthracite oak, topped in night-blue glass lit from within to reflect the surrounds. The side-walls contain horizontal slits that may be used as display cases. Three oval apertures in the ceiling, each at a point where pillars, bearing girders and secondary girders intersect, lay bare the structure of the building. They contain the air-conditioning plant, fire extinguisher system and extra lighting. A steel staircase runs up the showroom back-wall, past a gallery used on special occasions, and up through an oval ceiling aperture to the floor above with its administration offices and classrooms for training work.
The attention to colour and lighting throughout the showroom displays is a large-scale transposition of Duravit’s philosophy that a bathroom is a place to relax and be restored in, an area to live in and no longer just a functional necessity. Somewhere, in short, that calls for overall design yet care for the least detail at the same time.
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