Having joined Roca in 2003, Antonio Linares spent over 12 years directing the operations of Roca Russia, overseeing seven factories and 3000 employees. Now, following the promotion of Alberto Magrans to CEO of the wider Roca Group, Linares takes over as Senior Managing Director of Laufen and the Northern and Central European Roca division. Sleeper sat down with him at Sleep & Eat 2019 to discuss what he has planned for the role and the shifting sands of the bathroom space.
Could you tell us a bit about your career so far?
I am a civil engineer by training and worked for a while in construction. When I made the decision to move into private business, Roca were there to take me in and send me out to Russia to set up an arm of the company. We found a strong market for premium goods in Russia, so the business developed at a great pace, and together with Laufen we began setting up the joint business as a whole entity, aligning our strategies and ideals. Together we’ve been able to bring premium aesthetics and materials to industrialisation, and at the same time we’ve grown and maintained our bespoke line. This means we must be efficient, but also that we must have the ability to deliver something custom-made that makes the client feel special. It’s important that we’re sensitive to both of these elements, because we’re very good at what we do, but must be equally good at listening to the needs of others, and what they want.
What will your responsibilities be in this role?
To continue developing the strategy for the further growth of Laufen. My ambition is to see it double in size. I won’t put a number of years on this, but I would like to see it happen in a relatively short period of time, because I see so much potential, and Laufen has a huge circle of friends and collaborators in many different sectors. But not everything can be about the bathroom, because there must also be consideration of the experience. Marcel Wanders believes that the bathroom is still hugely underestimated as an experiential space; it is the first room you go to when you wake up, and the last before you go to sleep – you can be naked there without limitations and connect with the materials more than you would anywhere else. There is a sensuality to the bathroom that must be applied to everything we make.
What is Laufen showcasing at Sleep & Eat?
We have The New Classic here with us, designed by Marcel Wanders, which we’re extremely proud of. It’s the perfect synthesis of us as a brand, and a wonderful collaboration. The range is bespoke and can be adapted to suit many different ideas, and the collaboration with Marcel was actually a result of working with him at Mondrian Doha to create a bespoke washbasin – the process and relationship was so great that we decided to do a catalogue collection for the public. We’re always excited about bespoke projects but have not yet reached the limits of what we can do. I’ll be looking to push the boundaries of what is possible in that regard.
What hotel projects does Laufen have in the pipeline?
We’ve recently finished the Richter Hotel in Moscow, where the bathrooms feature Laufen products including the Riva Shower Toilet and Smart Toilet. I’m very proud of this project – it’s small scale, just seven suites, but it is very artistic and interesting. Also in Moscow is the new Hyatt Regency – where again the scheme is fully Laufen – and we have been very busy supplying pieces to over 1,400 bathrooms at The Royal Atlantis on The Palm in Dubai.
How will you be approaching sustainability and the green parts of the job?
We have several projects with a dedicated sustainability concept supporting them. The separation toilet, for example, is a product that deals with urine, separating the toxins out and then re-utilising what’s left by converting into fertiliser. It requires a specific set up and installation, but it has been very well received by the architecture and design community, and we’re currently in conversation with a few hotels who would like a really substantial ecology and sustainability dimension to their project. We’ll also continue to develop our water saving and efficiency practices across the design, installation and manufacturing processes. One thing that’s going to be very important moving forwards is an internal programme we have that is pushing towards zero waste, which will involve reincorporating absolutely everything from the production line. So, if there is a piece that does not pass a quality test then we will break it down, turn it to sand and then feed it back in as a raw material. The same thing goes for glazing – we spray with the typical glaze but then have water coatings that separate the mix into clean water and glaze that can be reused. Heating too – in that the warmth of the furnace is used for internal heating. This programme covers every line of our production, and has a positive effect on our efficiency too. Ecology is a financial need, and if we don’t understand that now then we will understand it too late, so we must incorporate these ideas into the value proposition whilst making it affordable too. Ecology can no longer be seen as a limit on design, and must instead be considered as a challenge – to make the same quality product but with a minimal footprint.