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December 17th, 2008

Taking toilets where they’ve never been before

Published on December 17th, 2008 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Duravit – a sanitaryware manufacturer with attitude – is on a mission. The company is determined to make toilets more visible and to change people’s attitudes about them so the humble “W.C.” gets more respect. This is the reason Duravit told famed French designer Philippe Stark to use a giant ceramic toilet as the centerpiece for its new design center in Hornberg, Germany. And Stark being Stark, did just that – creating a toilet several stories high – so large, in fact, it doubles as an observation tower where visitors gather to peer out on the surrounding town (see above). This is also the reason Duravit has done what no bathroom manufacturer has ever done before – opened a showroom for toilets and other sanitaryware on Madison Avenue, one of New York City’s toniest addresses in the very heart of its fashion district.

Duravit's "showroom for toilets" on Madison Avenue.

Duravit's "showroom for toilets" on Madison Avenue.

Known as “Duravit New York,” the new facility is designed to convey a sense of “water, air and sky metaphorically converged to produce a vast and weightless atmosphere where conventional intersections between wall, floor and ceiling fade away seamlessly,” a company press release says. Created by the German architectural firm of Schmutz & Partner, the showroom features carefully planned “D-cubes” – special areas built with their own roofs, floors, and ceilings, enabling them to reflect a wide range of changing surfaces and materials selected to “translate Duravit’s living bathroom environments into tangible bathroom vignettes,” as the firm’s press release describes. Special attention has also been given to the showroom’s paint and the arrangement of interior seating installations, media displays and product platforms. The result, Duravit believes, is a space that represents the successful marriage of two opposites – an expansive multi-sensorial showroom evoking wellness and tranquility, located in the heart of one of the world’s most hectic and fast-moving cities. The showroom and Duravit’s novel design center are only two of the attention-grabbing facilities Duravit has built throughout the world. The company also operates impressive flagship stores and showrooms calling attention to toilets and the other bathroom fixtures that Duravit manufactures in Meissen, Germany; Cairo, Egypt; Paris, France; and Shanghai, China.  

New plant in India: Now Duravit is out to conquer a new city. Only a month before its opening its New York showroom, the company laid the cornerstone for a new production facility it plans to build in Tarapur, India

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Duravit's plant in Tarapur, India is expected to open in late 2009.

Duravit's plant in Tarapur, India is expected to open in late 2009.

Scheduled for completion by the end of 2009, the new plant will employ 250 people and have a capacity of about 500,000 sanitaryware pieces per year, reports Franz Kook, chairman of Duravit’s management board. Kook says Duravit currently has production plants operating in Germany, France, Egypt, Turkey, China and Tunisia, in addition to distribution centers scattered throughout the world. Since Duravit has conducted business in Asia since 2003, Kook believes the firm has already established itself in the Indian luxury sector. The challenge for the Tarapur plant, he says, will be to open up a mid-priced market aimed at India’s rapidly-growing middle-class. Kook is also interested in developing “high-quality collaborations with local fitters and market partners.”  To accomplish this, the company will offer training seminars to show local craftsmen the fine points of bathroom installation and planning. One such seminar in 2007, attracted more than 500 attendees drawn from seven Indian cities, Kook says.

Opening new doors: “The bathroom is currently undergoing a major transformation as the notion of ‘living bathrooms’ gains momentum,” Kook states. “In contrast to the demands of everyday life, it offers modern users the desired space for relaxation and regeneration.” And, so, Duravit continues – one bathroom at a time around the world – boosting awareness and changing people’s attitudes about toilets and the rooms that house them.


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