Piero Lissoni and Roberto Palomba tell how the way of designing the bathroom has changed in the last four decades

On the occasion of the forty years of Cersaie, from 25 to 29 September at Bologna Fiere, we asked the architects Piero Lissoni and Roberto Palomba how the way of living, conceiving and designing the bathroom has changed in the last four decades (and beyond ).

Route 40: at Cersaie, a journey through time to recount the 40 years of evolution of ceramics and bathroom furnishings

To relive 40 years of evolution in bathroom furnishings and ceramics, the appointment is at Cersaie with Route 40, an exhibition itinerary that talks about the products, companies and the characteristic innovations of these four decades, underlining the great changes that have taken place in the cultural, social, design and production fields.

Curated by Davide Vercelli and designed by Dario Curatolo, Route 40 will wind its way through Cersaie starting from the Quadriportico - point of presentation and conceptual connection of the story - to continue in Gallery 21-22, 25-26 and in the Mall of Pavilion 37 with installations that tell each decade.

To understand the evolutions that have taken place, we talked about it with the architects Roberto Palomba and Piero Lissoni.

Once a luxury for the few, in the post-war period the bathroom became a right

Roberto Palomba: "Throughout history, the bathroom has undergone enormous transformations. In 1948, only 48 percent of Italians had a bathroom at home, it was almost a luxury.

From 1948 onwards, with the great post-war urbanization, the bathroom became a right for everyone. Industries were born to mass-produce sanitary ware .

Between the Fifties and the Sixties, some companies turned to designers to design and interpret the bathroom environment: Ideal Standard collaborated with Gio Ponti, and Pozzi-Ginori with Antonia Campi; for the first time the architects are introducing the culture of design into an environment once considered second-class, and today instead the protagonist of domestic living”.

Piero Lissoni: "Until 1500, the cities and villages, collecting the legacy of the noble past of the Roman baths, had public baths with running water, pre-saunas where you could wash, and baths that today we call Turkish baths, with humidity and steam. In 1900, up until the 1950s, the bathroom was, for those who can afford it, an important place in the home”.

From the Sixties to the Eighties: the bathroom as a purely functional place

Piero Lissoni: “In the 1960s, partly also because houses became smaller, the bathroom was reduced to a service area, purely functional, to then arrive, between the 1970s and 1980s, to be yes, efficient and technical, but lacking in quality”.

Roberto Palomba: "From the 1970s onwards, we witnessed a singular phenomenon: the bathroom sector recorded significant numbers, but at the same time companies gradually moved away from the world of design, and instead of involving architects, they relied on installers, focusing more on the technical aspects than on the design; there is a sort of detachment, because while houses and domestic interiors evolve following the culture of the designers, the bathroom is transformed following the concept of the installer".

The Nineties: the new bathroom aesthetics are born

Piero Lissoni: “The turning point came in the nineties, when we realized that the bathroom could not be a forgotten space. Italian companies understand that there is a world to rediscover, and from the mid-1990s the bathroom becomes an interesting place to redesign, from a service space to a livable and visible environment".

Roberto Palomba: "Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, designers restored dignity to the bathroom, imagining it in stylistic continuity with the rest of the house".

2000s: the bathroom from a place of service to a realm of wellness

Piero Lissoni: “From an outcast place, the bathroom becomes a refined space, to be personalized with coordinated solutions, designed by architects and produced by the best companies.

Each element is rethought: the showers, which were previously 70x70 cm ceramic squares, become realms of wellness, with large glass boxes, large surfaces, flush-mounted floors.

The architectural language changes and consequently the design of bathroom solutions evolves and becomes sophisticated.

Nothing is left to chance anymore: the drawers, which were previously of poor quality, and borrowed from kitchens in the 1980s, are transformed to enter the bathroom.

We've redesigned the water jets, for a completely different shower experience than it did four decades ago. The washbasins, once anonymous, are now sculptures, with complex shapes and a resistance that was unthinkable in the past".

Water saving, reduction of materials and ecological finishes

Roberto Palomba: “Designing the bathroom today means not only thinking of functional and aesthetically refined solutions, but also ecological, with the least possible environmental impact.

The entire production process was rethought, ceramics obtained with 40 percent less raw material were used, consequently reducing the amount of energy and water required for production.

The reduction of material has generated a new aesthetic: the new elements for the bathroom have a very light visual impact, the thicknesses are thinner, the objects are miniaturized, monochromatic and continuous surfaces are preferred to excessive decoration.

Lightness, which was not a rewarding theme in the world of the bathroom - just think of the whirlpool tubs which had to be massive and imposing - becomes the feature that unites the contemporary collections. This is linked to the theme of water: we are designing increasingly water-friendly drains, and in the taps and fittings we are working on aeration systems that further reduce the amount of water without reducing performance and the perceived jet .

We research and experiment from a sustainable point of view: for the first time, we are replacing brass with 80 percent recycled aluminum in the taps and fittings, and instead of chrome we prefer PVD which is less polluting and offers interesting finishing possibilities, from the gold effect to the steels.

To recyclability we add another important issue, which is that of the traceability of materials: the customer must know where we get the materials, in order to choose companies are aware that instead of consuming virgin material they reuse end-of-life materials, according to a circular approach".

Where is bathroom design going?

Piero Lissoni: “The bathroom continues to become increasingly sophisticated, with more intelligent and performing products. We are working on a new generation of materials, such as wood treated with a special paint to resist humidity and the aggressiveness of detergents.

With the faucet companies we are trying to use less water and in a better way, we have made the siphons more functional, efficient and invisible, and the lights are no longer random lamps, but designed to illuminate the bath".

Cover photo: the Roll/Monoroll washbasin by Nendo for Ceramica Flaminia (2010): it evokes the shape of a sheet of paper rolled up on itself