Furniture, lamps or packaging: Arik Levy is at home with a vast array of design segments and has achieved global fame as an artist, stage designer, filmmaker and photographer. Born in Tel Aviv, Levy has lived and worked in Paris for many years. Working hand in hand with Kaldewei, he has now been involved in extending the latter’s premium segment, Meisterstücke. What has been created is an exceptional collection comprising the Meisterstück Emerso bathtub and the Meisterstück Emerso washstand. In this interview, the multifaceted designer talks about the design idea for the ensemble, the cooperation with Kaldewei, and the challenge of lending a new shape to the material, steel enamel.
Mr Levy, what was the underlying idea for your Kaldewei Meisterstücke collection?
The collection, comprising a bathtub and matching washstand, has a clear sculptural intention, whereby ergonomics and user comfort were also priorities. The design concept is inspired by the movement of water –not of watching water, but rather of being in it. The eye roams beyond the rim of the bathtub which seems to move fluidly from one shape into another. If one follows this shape with one’s hand or eyes, one has the feeling of immersion, as in a bathtub. The change of the surface is even reinforced by the placement of bathtub and washstand beside each other. This gives rise to a new, imaginary waterline between tub and washstand.
What is most important for you when you design everyday objects such as a bathtub?
For me, design means improving everyday life. It might be a major optimisation, or only a small one – but it must be there. The Meisterstücke which I designed with Kaldewei create a sense of comfort. When using the bathtub, people should feel happy. This is what I like to call emotional ergonomics. It’s the way in which mind and body interact with a product.
How did you find working with Kaldewei?
Kaldewei is a great partner. The Meisterstücke are not a project that I could have managed alone in my studio with my team. It really is a shared project. We took the time that we needed, and we mutually challenged each other – because creating a new product in an existing production is highly complex. The Meisterstücke Emerso collection is the result of many minds focusing their attention on one thing.
During your work on the Meisterstücke, did you and Kaldewei have a shared credo?
No compromises! That was the route that we chose for the collection. From an artist’s point of view, I didn’t want to make any compromises with regard to the shape. From a designer’s viewpoint, however, I knew that it had to be possible to produce that shape – but we didn’t make any compromises in this regard either. The Kaldewei Meisterstücke Emerso are an extraordinary project because both the artistic and technical sides were sustained by their pursuit of perfection.
What is it that makes working with steel enamel so unique?
Compared with other materials with which I work, steel enamel is more durable, the surface is non-porous, and it is sustainability epitomised. Those who manufacture products from this material make every effort to create something perfect, something that lasts – and that goes equally for Kaldewei and for me. Kaldewei steel enamel shows what it takes to produce the ideal surface: it possesses fantastic quality, it is extremely hygienic, easy to clean, and exceptionally robust. The difficulty lies in creating a surface of steel enamel that is curved in on itself. Kaldewei does this perfectly. That is why I got exactly what I needed from Kaldewei for my work on the Meisterstücke: a surface that captures light – because the upper edge of the tub shape reads the light in a very special way – every day, and every second. There is no symmetry, so the shape never becomes boring.
What influence did the design and the manufacturing process have on each other in the development of the Meisterstücke?
Designing these complex shapes and transitions is a huge challenge. As a designer it is difficult to produce something that can be made with steel enamel and which simultaneously causes the material to do new things. For the new Kaldewei Meisterstücke, we shaped the steel to the limits of the technically feasible, thus creating a new and positive tension. The result is simply extraordinary.