Design at your feet
von Nina Reetzke | Jan 15, 2011

Patterns composed of geometrical forms inspired by the world of plants or figurative representations have long decorated the floors of house entrances, businesses and public buildings. Small stones lined up in mosaics, edges and grooves in tiled floors, and panel against panel in the case of laminate flooring. For many a year, the work could only be done with special laying technology as printed surfaces on floors wore quickly; patterns with color graduation, shading or special depth effects did not exist. However, for some years now, laminates have been printable with significantly better printing methods.

Back in 2009, Parador engaged internationally renowned architects and designers such as Konstantin Grcic, Matteo Thun and Ben van Berkel for the laminate collection "No Limits". Apparently successful, they have now presented a new laminate series entitled "Experimental" to which six well-known representatives of the craft have each enthusiastically contributed two designs - these include Werner Aisslinger, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Zaha Hadid, Piero Lissoni, Ross Lovegrove and Jean Nouvel.

Light and shadow effects with ghostly fleeting forms were the inspiration for some of the new designs. The Bouroullec brothers examined color reflexes in church windows when sun shines through the stained glass. A pattern derived from what they saw decorates the laminate "Church". Red, blue, green and black quadrangles (in various sizes, distorted perspectives and with fuzzy edges) dance on a white background. Jean Nouvel's designs also draw on lighting effects. "Cedre" shows shadowy designs of cedars while "Agbar" depicts the mood of a high-rise office building Nouvel designed in Barcelona.

Other patterns in the "Experimental" collection are spatially constructed. For "Bone Structure" Ross Lovegrove produced abstract structures on the computer which he then printed and photographed. The light blue background is reminiscent of the expanse of the sky, making the represented space appear almost limitless. Werner Aisslinger's motifs look as if they were two and yet also three-dimensional. "Mesh" presents strong-textured weaves, while "Gel" refers to the like-named substance with its typical translucence and multiple air pockets.

Geometric patterns complement the collection. "Crystal" by Zaha Hadid plays on a multilayer triangular pattern. The various sizes, angles and positions of the triangles create an impression of oscillation. The line patterns in "Optical" and "Domino" by Piero Lissoni appear significantly more reduced.

Needless to say, to assess a motif of course you have to examine more than one piece of the laminate. The effect of the overall pattern when it is laid out on the floor is what is important. Intricate patterns like Ross Lovegrove's circuit board look just like colored pixels from afar. Larger patterns, such as Zaha Hadid's "Waves", only unfold when a number of panels are laid out together. Not to forget the way the pattern continues beyond the edges of panels. Either the pattern continues without a break or their are optical divisions adding tension to the overall impression.

Many architects continue to prefer monochromatic floor coverings. When muted colors such as black, grey or brown are used the floor remains optically in the background, the design focus lies with other elements in the decor - the furniture, the lamps or perhaps art objects. As soon as a laminate features complex patterns and bright colors, the floor assumes enormous importance in the overall impression of the room not least of all when it consists of luminous prisms, color reflexes in church windows or networks and biomorphic structures projecting into the skies. What counts in the end is a coherent overall concept for the room. It is now up to the architects to integrate the new generation of flooring into the buildings of the future.

Cicuit Board by Ross Lovegrove
Cloud by Jean Nouvel
Bone Structure by Ross Lovegrove
Waves by Zaha Hadid
Domino by Piero Lissoni
Flou by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Parador
Cedre by Jean Nouvel
Mesh by Werner Aisslinger
Fineline by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec
Krystal by Zaha Hadid
Optical by Piero Lissoni