Adapting Design to Overcome Challenges

November 19, 2015

Duravit hosted speaker Stacie Wong of design house Gluck+ at its 6,500-sq.- ft. Madison Avenue New York showroom for the start of a year-long celebration heading into Duravit’s 200th year in in the industry. As early as 1817, the company began in the bathroom industry deep in the Black Forest of Horberg, Germany, and evolved over two centuries to a global company charging new territory with developments in design and technology.

New Bathroom Collections
The recent meet and greet began with guests viewing the flowing, blue, illuminated space, which featured the displays of P3 Comfort and L-Cube designs, as well as Philippe Starck’s ME by Starck collection. This modern, timeless new bathroom series offers a variety of sizes and personalization opportunities for the consumer, including bathtubs, shower trays, toilets, bidets, washbasins, furniture basins, washbowls and vanity basins.

          ME by Starck photo

It was easy to envision products from the collection fitting in a cozy Catskill cabin or a sleek Manhattan penthouse, as they offer the balance between raw, natural textures and colors coupled with elegantly designed lines. Particularly exciting were the washbasins offered in a variety of sizes for even the smallest water closets, and yet design quality was not compromised regardless of scale.  


Designing Projects with Their Environment in Mind
The potential to adapt the product to the consumer’s individual needs and personality was on point with the evening’s speaker, Stacie Wong. Her presentation explained Gluck+’s featured housing projects and how each building was uniquely adapted to its environment without compromise on modern design. She touched on developing affordable housing in four locations where Gluck+’s trio of skills was met with a new triple threat: building in challenging environments, public and neighborhood resistance and zoning challenges.

Little Ajax. In Aspen, the Little Ajax Affordable Housing project property was built on a rocky mountainside where resistance from neighbors included fear of losing the view of the hillside and density issues. Gluck+ countered these challenges by keeping the mountain slope a public space and connecting surrounding public trails via the back of the property while conforming the build closer to the street front.

          Little Ajax

Van Sinderen Plaza & The Stack. At both Van Sinderen Plaza in Brooklyn and The Stack in Manhattan, the firm’s builds conformed to unique space requirements and responded to a high-density need in small-scale, urban areas. The first challenge was building in New York, a city developed over time where buildings are demolished between one another leaving vacant properties. Wong’s goal was to, “fill in these missing teeth to restore the city fabric” and do so by creating a housing prototype that not only made financial sense but didn’t reinvent the wheel each time. 

A pre-fab modular construction design was the plan for The Stack, but the intention was to overcome the typical cookie-cutter design. Modules were built in a factory setting and are durable enough to drive on the bed of a truck to the site. Most of the construction was done inside a warehouse where workers didn’t need to battle the elements. This aided in smoother, sturdier builds and smoother inspections.

                    The Stack

The Van Sinderen lot was tight and adjacent to an aboveground train system, recycling centers and two-story buildings. To counter the hurdles of an exceedingly tight and unusual lot size with virtually no sidewalk, the designers treated the site as a gateway into east New York and elected to shape the building to create a more complementary outdoor system with green space. With the sidewalk only five feet wide, they set the building back 10 feet for a visual lean to the site but countered the issue of square footage lost in the units by cantilevering the floors above the sidewalk.

       The Bridge

The Bridge. For this Philadelphia project, Gluck+ proposed a project so large in size and scale, it was beyond anything built in the area and not within the city’s zoning codes. Opposition was strong, so the firm identified the build would be part of the economic rebirth of the area via website, including an online petition. The strategy was successful, as many businesses and residents in the area wanted the project to happen. In fact, public support had such an impact the city adapted new zoning codes for the area specifically to allow The Bridge building to be built. Ten years later the project is finally approved and off the ground.

The evening event at Duravit’s Madison showroom illustrated both Gluck+ and Duravit’s ability to adapt design in to more personalized innovations. Wong’s four projects showcased the opportunity for positive and meaningful integration of design to work not only for developer, architect and builder but for community and consumer without compromise of modern design.

Wong said it best, “Challenges are often the gateway to the evolution of design.”