GROHE Smart Design

Synonymous with luxury, design and chic, Milan was an obvious choice for the Bureau of Interna-tional Expositions’ selection for 2015 event. But for all the city’s connotations of opulence, Milan’s six-month long extravaganza is embracing sustainability as part of this year’s Expo theme: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. Naturally, with sustainability and style being our buzzwords, GROHE was thrilled to partner with the German pavilion in Italy.

However you look at this year’s Expo theme, there’s no denying that water plays a huge part. Case in point: Belarus’ enormous water wheel, or Kuwait’s hydroponic greenhouse inside a structure evocative of traditional Kuwaiti sailing boats. With Field of Ideas, the German pavilion is taking a different approach: specifically food and its future, all housed inside architecture redolent of Ger-many’s varied landscape. As ever, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and that’s where GROHE comes in: we supplied all water-efficient products, from showers to toilets, faucets to beverages.

In supplying sanitary fittings for the German pavilion, GROHE has taken a similar approach: stylish, innovative products that help people use natural resources better - without compromising on function or usability. Throw in the multicultural dimensions of an Expo event - multiplied by vast visitor numbers - and very quickly, broader design thinking becomes not just desirable, but neces-sary.

To that end, all staff and artist dressing rooms inside the German pavilion are fitted with GROHE Rainshower® Icon showers, each featuring an Eco button. The button effectively empowers con-sumers to act on what we’ve thought long and hard about - and they already know: straightforward showering is far from one-dimensional. Rather, those five, ten or fifteen minutes comprise active use - rinsing a full head of shampoo, for example; as well as passive - those luxurious moments of simply enjoying water. And if our customers consider water in multiple ways, why shouldn’t we?

The Eco button literally places that choice in the hands of users, reducing water consumption by 40%. From a design perspective, such mechanical approaches remain a challenge. Nonetheless, and in line with this year’s Expo theme, they also prove an inspiring catalyst for change.

In addition to the Eco button, the showers also boast their fair share of unintended design conse-quences. As our flattest model, we’re able to squeeze almost twice as many into pallets and con-tainers, so reducing our environmental impact. These are the broader aspects, the out-of-the-box considerations that designers of today must take into consideration.

GROHE’s input to the German pavilion also extends to faucets - specifically our Essence and Al-lure models. Both designs incorporate infrared technologies to ensure water flows only while hands are detected in the sensor area. Commonly used in public settings, increasingly we’re seeing these designs incorporated into domestic interiors. That’s particularly true for countries with high water costs - Germany, for example - as well as being a responsible choice for places experiencing drought, such as California. But these products also boast their own unintended consequences that I can personally attest to: my own young daughters love interacting with Essence faucets at home. And as all parents will attest, engaging kids with brushing their teeth is a definite design positive!

When it comes to global events like Expos, people-centred design matters. That calls for world-class products that are as intuitive as they are accommodating of various cultural perspectives. Nowhere is that more important than in the field of hygiene and health, and we’re thrilled to lend our innovation and expertise to Milan, a showcase of broad design thinking and all the unintended consequences that entails.

Supreme Role Model

WHEN PAUL FLOWERS, GROHE SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT DESIGN, visited the Chinese megacity of Shanghai, he often viewed new Shanghai from the perspective of the old city. He would gaze across from Puxi to Pudong, located at the massive bend of the Huangpu, precisely where the sandstone splendour of the 1920s and the glass-and-steel marvels of the modern era face off across the river. Flowers found one building in this science fiction-worthy skyline even more amazing than the others, and not just because it tops out at 492 metres: the Shanghai World

Financial Center by American architect Paul Katz.Some critics have called the work post-modern,

while others say it’s neofuturistic. The important thing for Paul Flowers was not categorising the building’s style or admiring its superlatives, but instead drawing inspiration from its lines. The key was the shape it traces from the square base of the tower up to its pinnacle, which is flat instead of coming to a point. Flowers was “fascinated by the sleek sophistication with which the architectural design eliminates the impression of heaviness from this imposing building”. This is accomplished by reducing the actual volume on the one hand and by playing with perspective on the other. While the structure appears to taper vertically, its bevelled outer edges stretch out horizontally. The trapezoidal aperture in the flat apex of the building is as aesthetically pleasing as it is practical: It greatly reduces the pressure the wind exerts on the structure. What especially caught the designer’s imagination was that the opening makes the sky part of the building and honours the primal forces of the heavens by elegantly framing them. The building thus becomes transparent and does not block the view, rather opening it up, creating interplay between the structure and the weather, the clouds and different times of the day. This special view of the sky through the building is reflected for GROHE customers in the Allure Brilliant faucet, which has an opening that allows them to see the flowing water.

Winning Projects Push Design Boundaries at World Architecture Festival

A twisting tower in Canada, a monsoon-resilient park in China and a vertically stacked urban village in Singapore were among some of the top honor recipients at this year’s World Architecture Festival, which took place in Singapore earlier this month. This year, the festival jury had the challenging task of selecting winners from over 300 entries, with competing projects from 31 categories exhibiting forward-thinking solutions in architectural, landscape and interior design.

The multi-day selection process saw winners from all categories go on to contend for the titles of the World Building of the Year, Future Project of the Year, Landscape of the Year, Small Project Prize and AkzoNobel’s Prize for Color in Exterior Architecture. The Festival culminated with the reveal of the World Building of the Year—The Interlace by OMA and Buro Ole Scheeren, described by the judges as "one of the most ambitious residential developments" in Singapore’s history.

"The Interlace housing development in Singapore, is a piece of architecture which is almost breathtaking in its overturning of design expectations,” says Paul Finch, program director of the World Architecture Festival. "Instead of a set of closely-knit tower blocks, the vertical elements are chopped, stacked horizontally and angled, creating welcome useable landscape and garden space, both at ground and upper levels. A brilliant diagram turned into a successful development.”

Other winners at WAF are as follows:

Future Project of the Year: Vancouver House by BIG

Landscape of the Year: Yanweizhou Park by Turenscape International

Small Project Prize: Lidingovallen by DinellJohansson

AkzoNobel’s Prize for Color in Exterior Architecture: ONS INCEK Showroom and Sales Office by Yazgan Design Architecture

Finch cites one of the standout projects as an example of innovation: “The Islamic Learning Centre at Education City in Qatar, designed by Mangera Yvars, will include a mosque where men and women will worship in the same space - a radical concept rare if not unprecedented in the Islamic world. The architecture, with its curved digital geometries and absence of formal minarets, is a translation of client aspiration into a contemporary architectural language which is simultaneously functional and dramatic.”

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