Q+A> Design Week with Philippe Grohe

East
Monday, May 20, 2013
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Philippe Grohe, head of the Axor brand, Hansgrohe.

Philippe Grohe, head of the Axor brand/Hansgrohe.

After the release of the new Organic Collection, designed by Philippe Starck for Axor/Hansgrohe, AN sat down with the head of the brand to talk about working with the designer, the technology behind the product, and Grohe’s formula for success.

How did Axor/Hansgrohe start working with Philippe Starck?

We started working with Philippe Starck in 1998 and it has always been a special relationship. I was very lucky because I followed my mother to the French part of Switzerland, so I speak both German and French. Not only does it help [Philippe and I] communicate [in French] but language is also culture. You think in a different way when speaking French versus German simply because of the structure of the language.

The Organic collection by Philippe Starck from Axor/Hansgrohe

The Organic collection by Philippe Starck from Axor/Hansgrohe

How long did it take to complete the project?

The Organic collection was a three-and-a-half year project. Many designers think [that pace] is too slow but it’s a highly industrial product and we had a lot invested—not just financially but in the technology. The new spray cartridge, for example, took quite some work. It’s much more than just a nice shape. We are now testing some new technology but we must test longer than we would for products with existing technology. [More testing means] you get a higher level of assuredness that the whole ‘shebang’ will work.

Please speak to the technology behind the water efficiency of the Organic Collection.

Well, if you really look for potential to save water its on the shower side. It’s where we lose the most. But we use various [water saving] technologies in both the Axor and Hansgrohe brands. In fact, we’ve started to study the transparency of efficiency and consumption [related to water use].

The other thing we consider is the perception of water. When you bring it away from being a commodity and bring it closer to nature through studies of laminarity, you can see those results in our waterfall technology for Axor’s Massaud Collection. Transparent water is less comfortable because it splatters more, so you have to bring down the volume, but its a fine line and we try to address this [with our products].

Another aspect of this project is the optical perfection of water. On the mixer side, the flow rate [for the Organic Collection] is at .9 gallons per minute [standard flow rates are around 2 gallons per minute]. We can’t control installation of the [building’s water] system but we do our best to accommodate. It’s not as easy to regulate warm water, but as you regulate the quantity that becomes easier. It’s the same reason we have a shower spray, because you feel the temperature differently [with changes in spray volume].

The shape of the collection is very unique.

When you do something very different, only three to five percent of people will like it and the bathroom is a conservative [place]. But if you change the archetype [people] can access it easier.

The Organic Collection by Philippe Starck from Axor/Hansgrohe

The Organic Collection by Philippe Starck from Axor/Hansgrohe

What’s the greatest success of the collection?

The success of the Collection is a veritable cocktail of elements. You can have the best ingredients but if you mess up while you’re cooking its gone. But [the Organic Collection] has this incredible shape and I have to tip my hat to Philippe. He really proves that he’s on top of things consistently. This is a very new shape and the majority of people like it from the first view. You need that attraction when you want to change the habits of people. We try to put a lot of values into our products and I think this perception comes through in discussion, one in particular that I had recently with Fabio Novembre. We’ve used flow restrictive [flow] technology for 20 years [so there is lots of added value] but it always comes down to that last cent. [The] people [working on the project] don’t care what happens after. He said, “You can impress rich people with beauty only.”

And he’s right but you have to like the product first. And [based on the initial reception], for that we must thank Philippe.

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