Urban Retreat, the new carpet tile collection launched by Interface, explores man’s connection with natural elements and the intersection of nature and manmade materials. The collection merges seemingly opposite worlds that inspire beautiful, coexisting and functional design in interior spaces. The collection is linked, in part, to biophilia and to related global trends. Research shows that the percentage of people who prefer living in urban environments has risen significantly. This is supported by the increasing numbers of individuals and businesses who have migrated to the hearts of cities in recent years. But humans don’t want to lose their links with nature. As our cities are invigorated, we are seeing more evidence of biophilia. Urban Retreat builds on this trend by offering a series of designs inspired by the natural world.
A perfect example of how Urban Retreat is being used to full advantage is in architect’s offices located in a redesigned grain silo on the banks of the River Rhine. Built for wartime during the 1950s, the silo, unused for 30 years, has now been transformed into an exciting, new contemporary building, Speicher 7, just a short walk away from Mannheim’s city centre and its many cultural institutions. The new building contains a hotel, a stylish bar with a lovely terrace to the river, a gourmet restaurant and offices. With its harbour location and strong urban elements, the project itself reflects a melding of city and nature.
Schmucker & Partner Architects were the architects responsible for the 2013 redesign of the building and have located their new office inside it. They’ve used a rejuvenating design element to dramatically transform the space: Interface’s Urban Retreat One carpet tiles in the colours of flax and grass. When the architects discovered ‘Urban Retreat’, they were immediately enthusiastic and set about using this endlessly flexible collection to create unique flooring concepts.
Nothing would be more appropriate to a riverbank stroll than the colours of sand and light dirt underfoot with stretches and patterns of grass, and this is what the carpet tile replicates. The architects have created patterns where grass is edging up against the side of a wall and acting as a dramatic wayfinder leading from one end of this 1500 sqm space to the other. They’ve created a perfect rectangular field underneath tables and chairs, and even an abstract pattern below bookshelves that looks a little like grass peaking up around the edges of square cobblestones.
At the same time, the flax/grass colour palate softly complements the light grey concrete ceilings and beams, and with natural light flooding the office, the overall effect is a symbiosis of indoors and outdoors, natural and constructed, urban and field. When grouped together, Urban Retreat One carpet tile patterns UR101, UR102 and UR103 create the look of moss growing on stone, with veins of green running across the floor and blending subtly on either edge into a neutral ground for a soft somber effect. At the same time as evoking nature, they also explore the contrasts of modern cities; sharp and blurred, classic and futuristic, eclectic and austere.
Urban retreat is available in three patterns and comes in eight colourways with a complex primary pattern and a transitional pattern of boldly mixed colours. Four accent tiles can be used to link and separate each pattern to create pretty much anything their imagination allows.
Urban Retreat’s themes of contrast and complement are in fact reflected in the whole redesign of the building. The architects kept some of the old and introduced the new. Preserving original style elements from this local architectural monument and warehouse, much of the dramatic original and raw concrete bones of the building have been left intact. Meanwhile, the Speicher 7 hotel has been racking up design awards, including the European Hotel Design Award in 2013 for Architecture of the Year for Conversion of an Existing Non-Hotel Building to Hotel Use. Judges commended they way that the hotel stayed true to its industrial heritage, allowing it to be integrated into the existing neighbourhood while bringing new life to it.