Re-inventing the bathroom

Bathroom manufacturers Duravit take The Big Project to their design centre in Germany for the official launch of the latest product range

?As the company who designed and supplied bathrooms for the Burj Khalifa and Dubai’s Index Tower, the Duravit brand is recognised worldwide.

This year, the company will launch a range of new products in the region (see box) designed by award winning EOOS, Sieger Design, Matteo Thun, Sergei Tchoban and Philip Starck.

Speaking of their “very strong presence” in the Middle East, chief of international sales, Albrecht Graf Von der Groeben, explains: “The bathroom is now opening up; it is no longer a functional place. Today, we have more functions in terms of wellness and well being, fitness and so on and in future these elements are going to play a much more important role.”

Echoing his comments during the official launch at the Duravit Design Centre, located in The Black Forest in Hornberg, Germany, CEO Franz Kook, called it a “very big moment” in bathroom design, adding: “The bathroom is the middle of all attention for all our clients, because bathrooms have come to be a living space, rather than a functional room. People spend a lot of time in the bathroom, therefore they like to see something unusual.”

Attended by hundreds of journalists and clients, designers of the new range were also present at the launch to explain the concepts and evolution behind their designs.

The design centre, also designed by Philip Stark, is both a headquarters and tourist attraction thanks to a seven meter high toilet built into the side of the facade, from where visitors can look out onto The Black Forest.

“Showrooms give us a stronger focus on the retail side so people who cannot visualise our products just from the brochures have the opportunity to come and see and touch the products,” explains Von der Groeben.

By the end of 2011, the new range will also be on show, and on sale, at Duravit’s newest showroom, in Deira, Dubai. The retail space was officially launched in March this year, after a 10 month renovation project.

“This new showroom will serve as a platform to explain it to the customers, architects, designers and everybody involved in the decision process, how these products work. We’re very happy about this showroom because we’ve never had a centre like this in the region,” adds Von der Groeben, speaking at the opening.

Following a period of strong growth, Duravit experienced a slow down during the economic crisis, reporting their first decline in sales in almost 200 years, in 2009. Today, as more projects are specified, Duravit reports demand is returning to the market.

“Our business model is very sustainable across all our operations. Like everybody else we depend to a large extent on the project business but at the same time we have a very strong retail business,” says Von der Groeben.

Reporting strong working relationships in the region, facilitated by their partnership with the Hassan Group, Von der Groeben adds: “For Duravit to step into this market in the Middle East is becoming very important because we have a very close affinity with this area; a factory in the region which is supporting our activities in the market and a very strong presence in the project business throughout the Middle East.”

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