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Duravit Design Centre

Philippe Starck

Duravit Design Centre
By Riccardo Pietrantonio -

The Duravit Design Center in Hornberg, a little town in the heart of the black forest, combines flexi-space offices and showrooms, a services centre and training facility. Philippe Starck designed the 19 m high building that combines practicality and function with a wholesome dose of irony: the façade giving onto a new busy main road has been recessed to give way to a three-storey high toilet that also functions as an observation tower that is illuminated at night.
At the inauguration of the building, Starck explained his basic concept. Despite appearances, the outsize loo is not a marketing gimmick. It is there to arouse the sensations a bored child might have when he catches a glimpse of this outsized object from the backseat of a car emerging briefly from a tunnel before speeding down another. He has seen something that defies logic, something that is only possible in flights of fancy. “The impossible is possible!”, he might exclaim. The image spurs his imagination, encouraging a freer interpretation of the world around. As well as making the building unique, this singular feature also heralds a new dimension of communication with the outside world. The façade has become showroom; design has become architecture and vice versa.
Partly glazed, partly clad in steel panels, the building is not rectangular but follows the shape of the site. The ground plan is therefore an irregular trapeze shape. Each of its five-storeys is divided into three distinct areas. Separating the multi-purpose administrative area from the “Black Box” showroom is a central services zone (stairs, lifts, and bathrooms). This multi-purpose space receives direct daylight from large glazed lights and from a full-height glazed cylindrical lightwell that looks as if it has been planted inside the building. In contrast, the Black Box exhibition area, completely clad in steel alloy panels, admits no light.
To assist orientation, architect and builder have given each floor a dominant...

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