Laufen does space in Berlin
“I view the LAUFEN space Berlin as a letter from the future. It tells the story, documents the designs, and interconnects with the other existing LAUFEN Spaces to create a living organism in the digital world. But there’s also a haptic bond that links each of the individual locations. The showroom is transformed into an archive, a laboratory, a studio – and so on.“
Marketing Director, LAUFEN BATHROOMS
So: what is the definition? Space is not a matter of shop size – it’s not about the mere desire for prestige. Space is about depth. Cultural depth emanates from the theatre; in the cinema, it is generated from motion and in an art exhibition, it is hanging on the walls. All of these activities are greatly reduced in the era of the pandemic; at the same time, conventional forms of advertising and product presentation are being eroded. This is equally true of trade fairs and print media.
The LAUFEN space endeavours to facilitate a new dialogue, to keep a window open and to meet a responsibility towards society as a whole – an approach that goes far beyond a mere communication strategy. Of course, this will only work if the actors play their parts with effortless ease, if they’re taken seriously – and if, instead of letting themselves be exploited for advertising purposes, they enable the creation of a hybrid space where perception is sharpened through dialogue.
In Berlin – in the western part of the city, to be more precise – in the elegant quarter of Charlottenburg, a stone’s throw from the Kurfürstendamm, a former antique shop with all the flair of the mid-19th century has been transformed into an interdisciplinary space that links the other LAUFEN spaces across the globe (in Vienna, Madrid, Moscow and Miami) to the German capital. And: two prominent display windows on the lively Kantstrasse, the legendary Paris Bar just around the corner, and the stylish fusion restaurants in the Carré: these were the basic elements that designer Konstantin Grcic fashioned into a setting that showcases the items on display with unexpected and even irritating visual contradictions.
“The DNA of the LAUFEN space essentially consists of three elements: the archive, the LED wall – a virtual extension of the real space, a kind of window that affords deeper insights into the LAUFEN world – and the freely configurable area. This free area initiates a dialogue with art, architecture, design and film – and, in the broader sense, with the public.”
LAUFEN is taking leave of the showroom to offer a platform in the space where cultural developments are played out against the backdrop of their own history. The space is open to a variety of cultural phenomena, giving rise to dialogue between disciplines: intimate, irritating and always exciting.
“In this way, each space becomes a local broadcaster that helps to shape and convey the international programme, presenting the LAUFEN brand as the urban focus of cultural debates. We’re moving away from prestige. And we’re moving towards dialogue.”
Marketing Director, LAUFEN BATHROOMS
Grcic responds to the typical features of an old-fashioned Berlin shop salesroom by installing an oversize industrial racking unit: 12 metres long and over 3 metres high, it becomes the dominant element in the space.
The racking unit serves as an archive where the collections are arrayed in all their variety, just as in a library. This concentrated arrangement reminds us, on the one hand, that sanitary ware is produced in an industrial process; while on the other, the diversity of the individual items reveals the innate perfection of design and craftsmanship that is common to all the products on display.
Opposite this archive, there is a metal wall structure whose functionality challenges the inflexible nature of normal bathroom exhibitions: in this case, the products stored on the rack can be inserted and removed in a process that almost resembles a game. Washbasins and toilets can be combined at will, according to any given design concept, providing architects and interior designers with unprecedented options for sampling. LAUFEN’s proprietary collections of faucets also have their part to play in this game, and they too can be swapped around simply by plugging them in and then unplugging them again. This allows direct comparisons and combinations of colours, surfaces and designs.
The second element that attracts the attention of passers-by as they look through the huge display windows is a LED wall measuring six square meters. Embedded in an entirely black reflective box, this wall opens up another plane in the space, drawing the observer deeper into the LAUFEN cosmos. It radiates its aura towards the display window, and invites strollers to step inside.
As a counterpoint to the real, material nature of the products that are physically present, the LED surface introduces the virtual dimension into the space. Depending on the configuration, the digital image conjures up different atmospheres and conveys them out as far as the street. Conversely, the enormous free area – the third element of the spatial design – extends the public space into the interior.
This creates a fluid, multifunctional environment that allows – above all – for a variety of usages.
“There are outstanding designers, up-and-coming artists, old hands and new ways of presenting our own portfolio to an underchallenged clientèle. Of course, an attention economy is always about entertainment, not about intellectual self-dramatization. And it’s not the reporting that is entertaining, but rather the surprise, the unexpected, the new – the things we have never seen or heard in these contexts. Then we gain the attention of communities that otherwise feel they are being ignored.”
Senior Managing Director of LAUFEN
LAUFEN rockets the conventional showroom into another dimension, transforming it into a platform for dialogue and exchange in Berlin – the city that is the ultimate symbol of openness and constant change.
From showroom to space: this transformation is already reflected in the implementation of the LAUFEN space Berlin. Although the available area is rather limited, Grcic finds a solution that uses only two decisive elements to underscore the heterogeneous aspiration to be a space that serves multiple purposes – and by doing so, he creates room. The rack – which almost forcibly eats its way through the Space like a block – is intended not only to be an archive and a warehouse, but also a showcase for products. And the large vertical screen, in portrait format to indicate its formal proximity to the smartphone, marks the threshold into digital space.
“We were interested in dialogue, not prestige. That was the idea for this setting. There are images that take shape: atmosphere, architecture, moods, light and colour, artificiality. The images are not so precisely defined, and they don’t have to be exact in every detail – often, they are merely intimations.”
The LAUFEN space Berlin presents a new exhibition concept where the product intended as the sculpture is centre-stage, but where the space itself becomes a venue for events, talks and video installations.
A screen as the gateway to the digital world, and a rack to provide an overview: this reduction of the showroom format simultaneously opens up scope for other forms of presentation. It also emphasises a deliberately makeshift aspect: the space can be upgraded by making a few quick adjustments, or it can be left unfinished; it emphasises the space’s claim to be an open area that aspires to be more than just a showroom for the products.
In Berlin, the space is imbued with the distinctive signature of designer Konstantin Grcic, who has long been linked to LAUFEN through joint collaboration on product design. Grcic was one of the first designers to develop a collection using LAUFEN’s innovative SaphirKeramik material. What was then an experiment has now led to Val, one of the manufacturer’s most successful and wide-ranging complete bathroom collections. But what has remained constant in the collaboration between the company and the designer is the enduring determination and courage to innovate and continue developing.
Photo credits: Marc Comes for portraits of Konstantin Grcic
Gerhardt Kellermann for other pictures