Smart toilet by Samuel Ross for Kohler flushes out the inefficiencies of conventional designs

The Formation 02 smart toilet by Samuel Ross for Kohler is the second step in the multi-year collaboration between the British designer and the bathroom brand

Formation 02 Toilet by Kohler and Samuel Ross
The ‘Formation 02’ toilet in Haptic Orange, by Samuel Ross for Kohler
(Image credit: Courtesy of Kohler Co and SR_A)

With influence in most sectors of contemporary design, Samuel Ross has been able to transcend the traditional definitions of high and low, often making complex conceptual ideas understandable by combining relatable images and forms. His ongoing collaboration with American bathroom brand Kohler is no different. Following the release of the ‘Formation 01’ faucet in December 2023, the polymath is now debuting ‘Formation 02’, an equally format-defying smart toilet that
is set to change how we do our business. 

Formation 02 by Samuel Ross for Kohler

Formation 02 toiler by Kohler and Samuel Ross

Samuel Ross and his new design

(Image credit: Courtesy of Kohler Co and SR_A)

It was while interning with Virgil Abloh that Ross honed his interdisciplinary methodology, tackling any brief, for any application, from a holistic standpoint and utilising any intellectual or practical tools necessary. The British multi-hyphenate first gained recognition with his A-Cold-Wall* streetwear fashion label, blending elements from working-class uniforms and high-end tailoring. Collaborations with major brands such as Apple and Nike then allowed him to innovate on what ‘wearable objects’ could be. With the establishment of the London-based industrial design studio SR_A in 2019, Ross began working in a wide range of applications.

Much of his work stems from deep research into philosophy, history, materiality and symbolism, and his use of striking colours, finishes and shapes make his creations appealing on both a tactile and cerebral level. A case in point is Ross’ ‘Formation 01’ faucet for Kohler, which was launched in Miami in 2023. The revolutionary tap was presented in an interactive, monochromatic Haptic Orange installation, the same colour used for the design that harkens back to the brand’s wildly successful 1967 Tiger Lily hue. ‘The idea was to show the flow of water, hearing it surge and move through the pipework system,’ says Ross.

Formation 02 toiler by Kohler and Samuel Ross

Two of Ross’ many sketches for the design. A careful interplay of angular and organic lines, its shape is inspired by land formations and the contours of waterways 

(Image credit: Courtesy of Kohler Co and SR_A)

The bold fixture is meant to change how we perceive and interact with the object’s different functions: its flow of water, the mechanism of its handle and spout. Water passes through three tubes interlocking at extreme angles before reaching an integrated head with the inclusion of precision pressure controls ensuring that there’s no disruption in its movement. For the designer, a radical reconfiguration of an object we might otherwise take for granted can help us become more conscious of our daily routines.

‘With daring colour and shape, the hyperbolic yet hyper-efficient ‘Formation 01’ stands out,’ says Ross. ‘We engage with faucets daily. Developing a perspective on this act closely relates to developing new expectations for water solutions for future generations. The faucet brings together the signatures of our industrial design studio: an intentionally abstract, reductive use of form and colour, at times minimal and arresting in application. It links back to the studio’s philosophy of tying experimentation with hyper-visual communication.’

Formation 02 toiler by Kohler and Samuel Ross

(Image credit: Courtesy of Kohler Co and SR_A)

This design was the first to come out of SR_A’s multi-year collaboration with the American manufacturer. Much like Ross, the Wisconsin-based brand, founded in 1873, prides itself on spearheading innovation, working with promising talents while also creating new proprietary materials such as Neolast, which is put to good use in this limited-run collaboration.

During Milan Design Week 2024, Ross and Kohler will be debuting the ‘Formation 02’ smart toilet, the second outcome of their ongoing partnership. Building on the research and conceptual development behind ‘Formation 01’, this reimagined fixture is made in the same Haptic Orange shades.

Kohler toilet by Samuel Ross

(Image credit: Courtesy of Kohler Co and SR_A)

Its shape is the result of a long process of sketching and modelling. For the designer, the carefully refined form is a gestural nod to the velocity of engineered waterways contouring Earth. The toilet’s massing evokes the types of land formations that help secure the delivery of water across the planet. It was the same thought process that influenced the ‘Formation 01’ faucet and might influence future concepts.

‘The object’s meaning, purpose and historical significance, and how we view the concept of the object, form a quadrant, an axis to iterate upon,’ says Ross. ‘We intentionally move between slightly lucid, artistic expressions of water’s innate characteristic and power while leveraging the user experience, expectation and wider market assessments as a counterweight to synthesise highly expressive thinking with Kohler’s engineering capabilities.’

Formation 02 toiler by Kohler and Samuel Ross

(Image credit: Courtesy of Kohler Co and SR_A)

In a similar spirit, the brand’s goal is to introduce an artful sensibility to its wide array of advanced technologies without compromising on performance or efficiency. The slightly oversized ‘Formation 02’ has a heated seat, automatic flush, dual flushing, bidet function, remote control function and the latest water-saving capabilities. These innovations should be engaged with in a manner that is pleasurable and intelligible, a balancing act that seems to be Ross’ guiding principle and will continue to inform his collaboration with the brand.

‘‘Formation 02’ should be viewed as a functional form, as an effigy of expression and engineering that is part of the human experience,’ says Ross.  

‘Formation 02’ by Kohler x SR_A will be unveiled at FuoriSalone in Milan (16 – 21 April 2024) as part of a site-specific installation by Samuel Ross 

Palazzo del Senato
Via Senato 10

A version of this article appears in the April 2024 Global Interiors Issue of Wallpaper*, available in print from 7 March, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today.

Adrian Madlener is a Brussels-born, New York-based writer, curator, consultant, and artist. Over the past ten years, he’s held editorial positions at The Architect’s Newspaper, TLmag, and Frame magazine, while also contributing to publications such as Architectural Digest, Artnet News, Cultured, Domus, Dwell, Hypebeast, Galerie, and Metropolis. In 2023, He helped write the Vincenzo De Cotiis: Interiors monograph. With degrees from the Design Academy Eindhoven and Parsons School of Design, Adrian is particularly focused on topics that exemplify the best in craft-led experimentation and sustainability.