HEWI MAG / Knowledge
The rebirth of the bathroom
The thoughts of Oona Horx-Strathern | trend and futurologist in Vienna
The evolution of the bathroom is the result of a design success story. But also the power of megatrends. Our homes are both: an expression of socio-cultural changes and a manifestation of our particular identities, needs and aspirations.
The evolution of the bathroom is not only the result of a design success story, but also the power of megatrends. Our homes are both, an expression of socio-cultural changes and a manifestation of our own particular identities, needs and demands. Without a doubt, the bathroom is the space that has changed and evolved the most due to these forces. In recent decades, the bathroom has been transformed from a rather sterile and austere functional space to a design space for our well-being, an expression of our "selfness".
More individuality in the bathroom
Bathrooms today are rooms in which we now spend much more time. Multifunctional, multitalented and now also multigenerational, bathrooms now have many different roles to fulfil. The drivers behind this change are the megatrends of health, a growing "silver society" and individualisation.
These days, the bathroom plays a central role not only in our physical health, but also in our mental health. Where once it stood simply for functional cleaning, today it also offers a relaxing welcome space where of course we still achieve cleanliness, but also "cocooning" - a place where we seek comfort, peace and vitality.
Our home, be it a house or apartment, has become more than a shelter today. It is the centre of our gravity. Our personal spaces, the objects and furniture we welcome into our lives, speaks volumes about us - not only about our state of mind, but also about the life we want to live in the future. "Home is where we want to express our individuality, where we remember who we are.”
Individuality means that we can identify ourselves with these needs, through our design choices. In this age of design democracy, good design is no longer seen as elitist or exclusive, but as a basis of human necessity.
What requirements should the bathroom meet in the future?
One of the biggest social change processes is our ageing society and the fact that we are living longer than ever before. What we now refer to as the "Silver Society" megatrend, shows that we are going through a "downageing" process as our life span expands - and we strive to stay younger for longer.
The expectations and needs of the baby boomers - the generation that grew up in the 60s and 70s - are about freedom, individuality and independence. This is the generation that is now experiencing the choices and challenges of old age. And at the same time still wants to retain their independence.
They have a keen eye for good design and enjoy a quality of life in terms of health and wealth that their parents and grandparents could only dream of. If bathrooms are to play a key role as a place to invest in these values, they need to be designed for a lifetime rather than a period of life.
We also see these new needs in the trend towards more open, more colourful, warmer bathrooms that can resemble drawing rooms, boudoirs or even second living rooms. The bathroom is a place where we not only feel free to move at any age, but also want to express ourselves at every stage of our lives.
In a world where health is the new wealth, the bathroom plays a key role. We are not only investing in a "bathroom", but in extending our quality of life for as long as possible.
Oona Horx-Strathern is a trend expert on future forms of housing and living in our society. The human geographer (Bristol University) has 25 years of experience in the trend and consulting business and has been publishing the annual HOME REPORT of the Zukunftsinstitut since 2019. The report highlights the most important developments for living in the future as well as for the construction and architecture industry. As a testimonial, she lives in the "Future Evolution House" on the outskirts of Vienna, which she helped design and build.
(Photo: Klaus Vyhnalek)
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