Letter from the future
Like Berlin itself, for all its long history Kantstrasse in Charlottenburg is still constantly evolving; interspersed between venerable West Berlin institutions such as Paris-Bar, Schwarzes Café, and the cinemas Delphi-Filmpalast or Kant Kino, there’s many an exciting new addition that has relocated here over the last few decades like Stilwerk or the Kuchi Group with Ryōtei 893. Located on the corner of Schlüterstrasse, the Laufen space is a relative newcomer that is trying something innovative. In the premises of an empty store the Swiss bathroom manufacturer has realized a surprisingly unconventional and vibrant exhibition concept: As a platform intended to foster discussion it openly combines presentation, dialog and experiment with the aim of achieving mutual interaction. The room is the brainchild of Konstantin Grcic, who has collaborated with the Swiss manufacturer of bathroom and sanitary ceramic since 2013.
“We really wanted the space to be a contemporary place for Laufen, a venue for culture, for public engagement,” explains Grcic. The industrial designer who moved his studio from Munich to Berlin in 2018 but has lived in the capital for ten years now was inspired in part by the location: “Kantstrasse is a lively street with all its stores for furniture, design, antiquities and restaurants.” That said, the designer was also inspired by the charm of the store with its challenging L-shape floor plan that defined the design. He says that the angular footprint creates a certain personality. Konstantin Grcic structured the space as three zones: Presentation, display and archive. The front section of the store functions as a free space that can be used flexibly for a varied program of events and temporary installations. In the adjoining smaller room, there is a glowing LED wall that is also visible through the two windows. In its capacity as a multi-media display it allows guests to attend live by video: a kind of digital stage. Finally, the deep room in the rear section complements Laufen space as a curated product archive. In the middle of the long connecting room stands a twelve-meter-long section of industrial shelving that at three meters tall very much dominates the room. Like a library shelf it can be accessed from both sides and visualizes the diversity of the various Laufen collections.
It is closed off by a grid-like metal structure that serves as an analog test assembly area for all Laufen editions archived in Berlin. This wall is effectively like a small workshop says the designer, who five years ago in the form of “VAL” developed one of the most comprehensive complete bathroom collections for Laufen. The wall allows washstands and toilets to be combined as desired simulating how they might look in practice, opening up new options for architects and interior designers to sample. Moreover, the fittings collections can be combined and compared in color, surface and design by simply slotting them in and out. Workroom, showroom, interactive platform, meeting place and archive: For the Swiss bathroom manufacturer Kantstrasse 29 is a location full of different activities. “Our major objective was dialog not representation,” stresses Grcic and goes on to explain his idea for the scenography. “Images are composed, atmosphere, architecture, moods, light and color, artificiality. The images are not that specific and need not be exact in every detail, but are often only faint suggestions.”
At the opening this September Marketing Director Roger Furrer enthused that the Laufen space Berlin was a letter to the future. “It tells a story, archives designs, and networks with the other Laufen spaces to become a living organism in the digital world. But it has a haptic reconnection via the individual locations.” The plan is for the space to repeatedly change – just like Kantstrasse and Berlin, the city that according to publicist Karl Scheffler is fated “forever to become and never to be.” As such the new Laufen space in the capital will blend perfectly into its surroundings. And hopefully will remain more than just an intermezzo.