For 125 years, German brand Alape has been perfecting the visual as well as haptic experience of washbasins and washstands made of glazed steel.
In product design, we frequently talk about form and function. Yet there is one factor that often – even if subconsciously – determines the favour or disfavour of potential users: the tangible experience of a product through touch. The material as a tactile surface can be worth more than a thousand words. This explains why Alape, as a specialist in glazed steel products, pays particularly close attention to this aspect.
It’s about much more than practical bathroom products: it’s about emotions
A brief digression into human biology: among the five senses, the sense of touch is most essential to survival. It is only thanks to tactile perception via the skin as a sense organ that we are able to feel emotions such as touch, tenderness, pain or warmth. The importance of this ability is already demonstrated by the fact that the sense of touch is the first to emerge in the womb, in just the second month of embryonic development.
At first glance, this may seem unrelated to enamelled steel, which Alape has been producing for 125 years. But it’s about much more than practical bathroom products: it’s about emotions. This is perfectly captured by the anniversary motto of the company founded in 1896 by Adolf Lamprecht in Penig, Saxony: ‘Embracing Water for 125 Years’. There could be no better way to unite the two existential human needs: the aforementioned sense of touch – embodied by an embrace – and the element of water as the source of life.
Based in Goslar, Germany, since its reestablishment in 1954, Alape attaches great importance to the surfaces of its products, and not only for the purpose of aesthetic appearance or material properties. It is the surfaces that make the expressively designed basins come alive. They bring haptics and optics into harmony. Serially produced one-of-a-kind pieces are created by applying each layer of enamel glaze to the titanium steel by hand. This is ideally expressed, for example, in the smooth Aqua surface series: depending on the incidence of light – as the name suggests – the colours and transparencies of the enamelling seem to move like water.
A second surface series offering unique tactile properties is Terra, containing the finest mineral particles within the glaze, which gives the products a soft matt texture. Starting this year, the Terra shades Silk Matt, Oyster Matt, Nordic Matt and Gravel Matt, which were first introduced back in 2018, are also available for the Stream basin.
Andrea Jürgens, Head of Creative Management at Alape, explains the manufacturer’s tremendous passion for the tactile experience as follows: ‘Surfaces represent the interface between the human body and the material world, and influence our well-being.’ Particularly in the bathroom, the most intimate place in any home, there is great need for authentic and appealing materials. ‘The closer we are to the things that surround us in everyday life and the more intimate our relationship is with them, the more important the sensual and emotional moments become,’ Jürgens continued.
When the EW 3 built-in basin was introduced in 1970, it was not just the form that determined the design. Whereas the current focus is primarily on surface structures, back in the 1970s the colour of products played a central role, in order to meet the increased need for expressive interiors. Since then, all products made of glazed steel are available in a wide range of colours – including black, a shade that has enjoyed growing popularity in recent years.
Black stands for extravagance and intimacy and, in combination with muted wall colours and natural materials, lends the bathroom an atmosphere of comfort and well-being. At Alape, matt black is now being offered as a standard finish for selected products, such as the rectangular Stream series or the circular Unisono series.
Since its introduction in 2012, the latter has been part of a new generation of countertop basins that reflect Alape’s expertise in the design and fabrication of basins made of glazed steel. Unisono was created in collaboration with Sieger Design and considered at the time to be the further evolution of delicate and refined countertop washbasins, as first presented with the bowl washbasin by Busalt Design in 1997. Produced in a strict geometric form from extremely thin-walled steel, Unisono still proves to be a perfect expression of the material’s properties. The new black shade now demonstrates the timelessness of the design, while adding a contemporary nuance.
In addition to their visual and tactile qualities, the basins from Alape are unsurpassed in one respect in particular: their delicacy and refinement, with the interplay of soft radiuses, clear contours, individual colours and flattering surfaces all paying tribute to the element of water.