The courage to interact
What can comfortable living look like when, according to UN predictions, more than two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities in 2050? And how can spatial luxury be defined under these conditions? AXOR is investigating these questions in the "Compact Luxury" project and examining the effects of urbanization in a "Whitepaper". The conclusions based on this are exemplary for "AXOR One", a collection that was developed by the Hansgrohe Group’s designer brand together with the British designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby in 2015 and has now been expanded. "AXOR One" is not only based on a timeless design, but also on sophisticated technology that enables intuitive operation.
Alexander Russ: "How do you challenge the archetype?" was a question you were asking yourself when you designed the new collection for "AXOR One". What is your answer?
Jay Osgerby: The concept for the collection stemmed from our travels and own experiences using a wide range of bathroom systems. We observed how unintuitive showers and taps were in the majority of places we visited. These experiences resulted in the desire to simplify processes and interactions in the bathroom by developing a collection that is intuitive whilst aesthetically elegant and timeless. Taps and showers are familiar archetypes that have been designed over and over again. We wanted to create a collection informed by improved functionality and new interactions, rather than reinventing the form of each piece. At first look, the collection is familiar, the forms are what you would expect to see in a bathroom, but, on closer inspection you see that "AXOR One" has elegant details and improved functionality that make it stand apart from any other bathroom collection.
The new collection is based on an interactive operating element for the shower and an accompanying handheld shower head that you designed for AXOR in 2015 and 2017. What were the key ingredients of the two elements and how did you transcribe them into the new collection?
Jay Osgerby: When it came to designing the "AXOR One" shower control unit, our aim was to create something that was simple visually and, from a user’s perspective, easy to use. The shower control combines the different controls for the overhead shower, hand shower and bath into one refined unit. This idea has followed into the new collection where everything is controlled by a single paddle that is simply pushed down to turn the tap on or off and then rotated for temperature. The new interactions and functionality have informed the elegant design language that can be seen across the range. We set out to develop a new interaction that removes unnecessary functions and reduces friction in our everyday lives. Users simply push the tap on and off without struggling to find the right temperature or water pressure.
What is the technology behind it?
Jay Osgerby: AXOR engineered a compact mechanism that sits under the counter or behind the wall so that we could integrate the controls into the spout and create an ultra-slim collection of taps. The gentle taper at the end of tap gives a more refined and elegant silhouette.
How did the technical process work and how did you communicate your ideas to the engineers of AXOR?
Jay Osgerby: We have been working with Axor for almost a decade. We have always admired Axor’s team of passionate and highly skilled engineers. We first approached them about working together at Salone del Mobile which resulted in the "Axor One" shower control panel, launched in 2015. Axor is an exceptional brand to work with. Axor’s expert engineers relish a challenge, which enabled us to push the designs further and create a collection which is innovative and unique. This collection has been a result of many years of testing, innovating and working closely with the Axor team. As with all our designs, we start by sketching and then create models in the workshop in our London studio. Axor then created working prototypes, cast in brass, which have undergone rigorous testing before each individual piece has been finalised.
You also designed the "AXOR Universal Circular Accessories" range as an addition to the "AXOR One" collection. Could you tell us more about it?
Jay Osgerby: As the name suggests, we wanted to create a range of accessories that was truly universal, designing pieces that worked alongside all Axor collections. To do this, we considered the functionality of each object. By focusing on the fundamental use of each piece, we were able to create a large range of accessories that are pure and elemental.
In its project "Compact Luxury" AXOR is dealing in a "Whitepaper" with the future of urban living and tries to predict how luxury will be defined in the future. One of the conclusions of the project is that people are more flexible in how and where they live. Did this play a role when you designed "AXOR One"?
Jay Osgerby: In a world where people are more nomadic, "AXOR One" can be used to create a bathroom space that is visually streamlined and free from material clutter. It can also be customised to each individual's unique taste. We feel that in the bathroom environment intuitive interactions result in true luxury. We designed "AXOR One" so that the user can feel totally relaxed and enjoy the bathroom as a place of sanctuary that aids wellbeing.