The courage to conceal

Interview with Christoph Behling

Industrial designer Christoph Behling

Interdisciplinary teams at Geberit develop design studies that form the basis for creating new products. One example of what their work has produced is the "floating plate": this is what made the Geberit actuator plate Sigma40 with integrated odour extraction possible in the first place, and provided the inspiration for the Geberit actuator plates Sigma50 and Sigma60.

Interview with industrial designer Christoph Behling

Christoph Behling, what do you enjoy about working with Geberit?
Christoph Behling: Geberit has maintained its vision of combining technology, infrastructure and aesthetics to create bathrooms that really look to the future. And it's courageous enough to keep its product features concealed. The floating plate is a good example of this – here, you can't actually see the technology or construction techniques – the know-how, in other words – that make the product what it is. There isn't even a hint of it on show. So it's clear that, for Geberit, innovation doesn't start and end with what's on the outside of the product; that is, the plate.

Design sketch by Christoph Behling

The floating plate started life as just a design, without any functions at all. How did you go from that point to creating a new product?
Christoph Behling: The functional aspect came along a few years later, when the odour extraction feature was invented. I was presented with this new idea of extracting unpleasant odours right at their source, and that really inspired me. We then carried out joint discussions about the technology to work out what kind of design would be needed to accommodate the function. The floating plate was exactly the right solution, as it was able to take the functional requirements on board and present a design that conveyed lightness and airiness. Working on this basis, we then developed the Geberit actuator plate Sigma40 with an integrated odour extraction unit.

Design study for floating plate

What was your job during the process of designing the floating plate?
Christoph Behling: I had to use the floating plate as a basis for designing the Geberit actuator plate Sigma40 – which meant making the visible invisible, and taking a refined, unobtrusive approach that would still imply excellent quality. The real accomplishment in the design is what it keeps hidden. A plate like this is every architect and interior designer's dream – something that's both highly discreet and extremely easy to use.

Did you then design the Geberit actuator plates Sigma50 and Sigma60 on that basis?
Christoph Behling: Yes, and in the Geberit actuator plate Sigma60, we've brought the floating plate concept right down to brass tacks. Its design and technology are stripped down to the bare essentials – and the features that remain are exceptionally simple and unobtrusive. It's an example of getting design down to a fine art – and it fits perfectly with the Geberit philosophy.