The Fine Line | The New Classic by Laufen x Marcel Wanders

November 2019

Is minimalism overrated? This influential notion has shaped our contemporary attitudes towards our living spaces and architectural aesthetics for over half a century. It is pleasing to the eye to see something with a sense of neatness. However, minimalism is pragmatically difficult to implement in daily life, especially when you are using basic shape-driven forms as interacting elements. Yet, this tension is not only demonstrated, but also solved in the latest collaboration between Laufen and Marcel Wanders, namely The New Classic.

The curve of the converging edge in The New Classic collection, resembles the floral lines of Wanders’ signature Tulip Chair (2010) and Dahlia Chair (2013) designed for Cappellini. However, the shape is more than a romantic design language, but rather a radical question of minimalism-dominated architectural design. Sanitary wares are normally regarded as sturdy architectural fixtures, revealed by their bulkiness, roundness, and materiality. However, this collection combines geometric mounts and fine-porcelain-mimicking basins, lightening the visual heaviness without sacrificing a sense of stability. “Basically the basin that you see resembles mostly the old big bowl you have on the table, where you scoop the water to splash your face,” said Marcel Wanders on the nostalgic twist.

As denoted by the name, the collection is indeed a reflection on the quenching of newness in modern culture. “We want to do a timeless design. I believe that (the sense of) time comes from doing something not new. New is a very highly qualified quality in our contemporary world. But it is a very dangerous quality. There is no quality in the world that is less stable than newness. If something is new, it will lose its quality like now,” he stated with a snap of his fingers signaling the volatility of newness. To stop it, the collection is grounded by the versatility of its form. The wall mount comes in a minimalistic architectural shape, while the basin has its origins in a ritualistic daily portable piece of homeware. Such an old-plus-new combination allows the collection to stay, no matter if it is placed in a minimalistic or a cozy interior, avoiding the obsolescence caused by renovation.

Aside from the reflection of newness, the collection also opens up a new possibility to solve the tension between architectural fixture and human interaction, by introducing a welcoming soft line. This form is achieved by the malleable SaphirKeramik. “It is a different composition, by adding aluminium oxide, which is the corundum of sapphire. As the name entails, it inherits certain properties of sapphire glass, shiny, strong and robust. In technical terms, it has double the bending strength of normal sanitary ceramics today. In that sense, we can go to half of the thickness and a very small radius, without diminishing the resistance,” was how Marc Viardot, the director of marketing and products at Laufen Bathrooms AG, explained it. The materiality allows this pressure-cast collection to be actualised. Yet, the significance of this collection is the demonstration of a different approach to ergonomics. Instead of using scientific research, it stems from sentimentality, which compensates for the cold gloom of the digital era.

By Dawn Hung