Welcome to the age of augmented reality, wherein even the process of buying a toilet has become an immersive digital experience. Between our pandemic-induced virtual events and Facebook making the word “metaverse” go viral, it’s starting to feel like the days of simply walking around a physical space in person are long gone. Now, layers of technology are increasingly inserting themselves between us and the real world, delivering us to a strange new era of human experience.
Swiss brand LAUFEN, who manufactures designer bathrooms, teamed up with architects Gabrielle Hächler and Andreas Fuhrimann to create what feels like a fever dream of bizarre bathroom concepts highlighting its products. Each one tries to capture a different mood with graphics, videos, animations, and soundscapes, taking you on a journey through a series of spaces where you may or may not notice LAUFEN’s toilets, sinks, tubs, and other bathroom fixtures making appearances in between all the weirdness.
The URBAN room is described as “a platform of hope and reflection,” featuring industrial machinery, birds, a UFO, and quite a few dystopian elements alongside the brand’s products.
The DESERT room full of cacti, wind turbines, and Joshua trees is a bit more cheerful and relaxing, even with the frog popping out of the toilet at the end.
In the FOREST room, scenes of deer, trees in the night, and a moonlit sky are interspersed with layers of code. Are you on mushrooms? Are you actually hooked up to a machine in a depressing post-apocalyptic environment while your consciousness experiences The Matrix? Who knows. What’s important here is that LAUFEN’s contemporary bathroom pieces actually look really good in this strange space. Maybe you should get some forest-themed wallpaper to go with them.
In the ARTIST room, we see artist Michelle Baumann and the commissioned art pieces she created for this collaboration: bold, graphic shapes in vivid colors splashed across LAUFEN’s fixtures. It’s enough to make you wonder, briefly, why we don’t see items like these available in creative colors and patterns more often. Then we remember resale value.
The point of the LAUFEN Virtual Space isn’t to replicate real-world bathrooms, naturally. It’s a marketing campaign, but it’s fun and arty. In a press release, the company explains that “in midst of the pandemic, online virtual rooms provide a context to products, guided by a meaningful message. Senses such as touch, smell, and personal relations are getting dangerously neglected with disastrous consequences on mental as well as physical health. This forces us to reinvent the ecosystem of communication and relationships through the creation of formats that blur the lines between digital and physical.”
“LAUFEN virtual space is about exploring a dream-like landscape through four different Kartell by LAUFEN sets and nature-infused stories that let one wander and wonder. The space wants to provide an experience of digitally animated, semi-interactive collages. Surreal spaces with a wink and the purposely very tactile feel while being fully immersed in the digital. A journey of process and progress telling a story and carefully taking the products by the hand. Almost like strolling through a LAUFEN booth at a fair designed by architect Gabrielle Hächler and Andreas Fuhrimann.”
Check out the LAUFEN Virtual Space website to get the whole experience, sound and all.