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New Forms for Faucets Come Flowing In

October 05, 2000|CONNIE KOENENN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It doesn't look like a bathtub faucet, but it is a prototype design that has won a $10,000 prize for Silas Beebe and Pasadena's Art Center College of Design, where Beebe is a junior.

Beebe's "Water Go" bathtub faucet, which he describes as "embodying the principles of organic modernism in both form and function," took first place in one of the year's more innovative design contests.

Price Pfister, a leading manufacturer of faucets and shower products, celebrated its 90th birthday this year by establishing a "Pfaucet of the Pfuture" scholarship contest.

Although the name sounds like a joke, the contest is serious. The company, a division of Black & Decker Corp. based in Pacoima, donated nearly $20,000 for the contest, held at both the Art Center and Parsons School of Design in New York.

The idea, said Price Pfister President Les Ireland, is to "celebrate the detailed thinking and innovative design that go into creating everyday household items by honoring our design leaders of tomorrow."

Thirty faucet entries were submitted by product design students from the two schools. All 30 were posted on the company Web site, http://www.pricepfister.com, where the public was invited to vote for its 10 favorite faucets. Then a jury of five industry and design experts culled the 10 finalists down to three.

"I was trying to do something a little different, to fill a gap in the market," said Beebe, 27, a native of Portland, Ore. "In my research I discovered there are hundreds of faucet designs in the sink category, but very few options for a bathtub."

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His winning bathtub faucet has an open loop configuration, which allows a plastic tray to be dropped in to serve as a bath caddy to hold soap, scrub brush or a razor. A washcloth can be draped over the loop. Water emerges mysteriously from a crescent-shaped opening hidden at the front of the faucet's lower lip.

For the oval handles, Beebe said he studied nature, starting with cactuses at Huntington Gardens, and eventually came up with the model of a bell pepper. "I tried to think of things that fit comfortably in the hand. These are flared for an ergonomic grip."

Second place went to Hlynur Vagn Atlason of Parsons, whose "Arch" design united the elements of a single-hand faucet into one form. And third-place "Chameleon" by the Art Center's Sane Koo is a temperature-sensitive bathroom faucet designed to visually notify the user how hot or cold the water is through a thermo film on the end of the faucet head.

"This was my first product design so it was pretty cool to win," said Beebe. The prize money was split between student and school. "I could use my half for whatever I wanted, but I definitely needed the money for tuition," he said, "so the Art Center got all of it."

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Connie Koenenn can be reached at connie.koenenn@latimes.com.

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