Exemplified by design, architecture, technology, and lifestyle, Agape has been in the bathroom design game for over five decades. With all of its products manufactured entirely in Italy, the acclaimed brand founded in 1973 by the Benedini family is considered to be synonymous with high-quality, carefully crafted objects and spaces. The architects and designers at the helm of the Italy-based brand are driven by their passion to create timeless spaces that embody a succinct relationship with their inhabitants. It came as no surprise when Agape celebrated 50 years of design excellence at the now concluded Milan Design Week 2023 by launching an array of new product designs, spelling evolution and innovation in the world of wellness and bathroom design.
The company relays that “(it) has never stopped viewing the bathroom as an architectural space and diving deep into its key concepts. It is a thoughtful design laboratory. For half a century, it has held to consistent ideals and practised constant refinement, reworking designs and inventing new ones, sometimes changing only a minor detail after exploring new materials and finishes. These patient and almost obsessive improvements are the foundation of an experience that results in iconic and timeless objects, each the result of the design culture that is the soul of Agape's identity.”
Among their myriad new launches at Milan Design Week 2023, Agape introduced a new freestanding model to their Undici Inox freestanding washbasin series by Benedini Associati, as well as the Cenote a Colonna series designed by Patricia Urquiola, apart from Ventiquaranta designed by LucidiPevere, and released the 028 mirror, also by Benedini Associati as well the Bloque countertops and storage containers by Urquiola.
The versatile Undici Inox wash basin series was augmented with a freestanding model ‘underlining its bold geometries.’ The simple and neat form articulated in stainless steel or brushed brass basin is delicately fitted to the painted metal column and is given details in the form of an elegant floor attachment. According to Agape, this new washbasin’s design explores the colour that balances the rigour of the form with an extensive palette. The collar, column, and outer surface of the basin are rendered in the same shade, a subtle contrast to the stainless steel or brushed brass finish of the interior and upper outer edge of the basin. “Undici Inox enhances the bathroom with its purity, while also offering greater freedom of movement than the traditional washbasin,” shares Agape owner Giampaolo Benedini.
Conceived as a ‘line of light,’ the new Dot Line lamp series designed by Garcia Cumini infuses spaces with a graphic charm and a soothing ambience. Available as pendants or wall-mounted fixtures, the lamp designs create a striking ‘bar of light’ that adds a three-dimension allure to a space. Crafted from brushed black anodised aluminium and featuring 3,000K LED lighting, these versatile lamps can be customised in length (50-299 cm) to suit any setting, to create ‘evocative geometries of light.’
Speaking to Samta Nadeem (Curatorial Director at STIR) at the design event in Milan this year, Giampaolo Benedini elaborated, “I was the founder of the company. But, 20 years ago, I left the direction of the company to my brother and returned to do my preferred job. I was involved in many different aspects of the design, of the architecture, and so, until I am not younger, I continue to think of something new, something that holds interest for me.” On the state of Italian design, he expounded, “ at this moment, it is not too good for Italian design, for many reasons. But globally, Italian design is very interesting. We are looking to the past, to see if it can give us some direction for the future.”
One of the landmark collaborations for Agape was with Spanish architect, industrial designer and art director Patricia Urquiola, who designed Cenote, a luxury wash basin that explores the freestanding model with clay to create a textural and architectural continuum with the linear, column-style base topped with a circular basin. “Both elements are made of natural or dark refractory clay moulded by hand at the potter's wheel, with unpredictable surface variations that bring a unique touch and a sense of ancestral presence to the bathroom environment. Deeply attuned to Agape's vision, Urquiola's design reveals a deeply human element, a synthesis of thought and skilled craftsmanship that generates a living and timeless beauty,” the brand relays. The rough outer surface juxtaposes with the glazed inner basin to create a stunning interplay of contrasts.
“The freestanding version completes the family, offering the possibility to place the basin in the middle of the room. It has a sculptural effect that highlights its personality and elegance. Fundamental here, as in the entire series, is the artisanal component, which, together with its essential architectural composition, emphasises the sensory vibrations of refractory clay,” Patricia Urquiola explained.
The 028 mirror by Benedini Associati is a natural progression from the 027 mirror—The latest iteration maintains the remarkable formal integrity of its forerunner, preserving the defining brushed stainless steel plate interior divisions. In addition, the updated model introduces a noteworthy enhancement—the inclusion of mirrored sliding doors, allowing the storage area to be fully concealed. As a result, personal belongings and accessories remain discreetly tucked away behind a sophisticated and space-efficient facade.
There is a fine line that Agape treads with these collaborations. Designer collaborations are not easy for brands with such a strong heritage and identity. Yet, somehow, Agape manages to hold on to its design sensibilities while empowering the designers it collaborates with. Expanding on walking this tightrope, Benedini shared, “It's not easy, because it depends on the moment. This is not a very big company, but we always do something new and different. We don't follow the market. We ask other people to follow us. Sometimes it's not that easy because many try to copy our new products. So, you have to pay attention. Because even if there are millions of products, there is always something that is new.”
“We remain the same. Many things have changed, but in the end, we find new and different ways to do the same thing. That is how we have come up with many of our inventions. For example, I think we are the first to use the resin composite and to print out the backdrops. We have even invented a different way to do the bath or shower glass - with a tube that is the glass but also a shower,” he added.
Beyond the luxurious and inventive design, Agape has also shown a penchant for sustainability, leveraged by latest technological advancements that help formulate efficient products. Sharing the brand’s quest for knowledge, Benedini commented, “We constantly look for different technologies to employ. We follow, see, test, and when we understand that a new material can be used, we go into production.”
The conversation concluded with a poignant note on what the company Agape tries to achieve with every bathroom and product they design, conceive and manufacture. “The story is that the bathroom must be functional and secure, something everyone can use,” Benedini points out. Agape has been leading the Italian luxury and design market for half a century now. This feat has been achievable not because the brand has an immense aesthetic recall, but more so because at its core, it values functionality. With every space and every product, it finds a way to marry functionality, security, and luxurious aesthetics with great attention to materiality and aesthetics. That, combined with their commitment to sustainability, is what makes Agape unique, and that is what will keep Agape in the game for decades to come.
STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2023 showcases the best exhibitions, studios, designers, installations, brands, and special projects to look out for. Explore Euroluce 2023 and all the design districts—5Vie Art and Design, Brera Design District, Fuorisalone, Isola Design District, Tortona District, and Milano Design District—with us.