More than 900 ceramic and sanitary ware manufacturers from 50 countries exhibited at Coverings 2013 in Atlanta, but three days to take in two exhibit halls and a back-to-back education program only made a dent in the offerings. The following is a cross section of some of the stand-out products displayed on the show floor last week. SoMa Bellavita Tile Bellavita Tile translates San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood-style onto ceramic with SoMa (above), a multi functional unglazed porcelain that can withstand high traffic in commercial applications. The collection comes in Matte or Polished finishes for interiors, as well as Structured for exteriors or wet areas, and six colors are available on 24 by 24-, 12 by 24-, and 12 by 12-inch formats. Three mixed formats, mosiacs and coordinating trims are also available. Archconcept Apavisa Burgeoning technical capabilities facilitate Archconcept, a three dimensional wall tile that can be suitable for exterior facades. As its name suggests, the Quarter Up format is a 35-inch by 5 4/5-inch plank that curves upward one quarter of the way down the plank. The collection comes in a variety of cementitious tones, metallics, and natural porcelain finishes. Hydrotect Crossville An exclusive North American partnership with bathroom fixture manufacturer TOTO brings Japanese technology to the U.S. supply chain with the Hydrotect treatment for tile. The coating, which is applied during a final firing after the tile has been baked and glazed, permanently transfers antimicrobial properties to each piece in the form of a silver, copper, and titanium dioxide treatment. Designed by TOTO's 1,500+ engineers to mimic the way plants harness light for photosynthesis, the finish also boasts hydrophilic and photocatalytic properties. Back2Back Emil Ceramica Noting the tendency of Italian architects to install stone upside-down to dipsplay the uniquely milled textures, Emil Ceramica developed Back2Back. The collection portrays the duality of natural, finished stone on ceramic for endless configurations of both finished and raw surfaces. It is available in three colors on 47- by 24-inch planks, 24- by 12-inch planks, or 24-inch tiles, and in a number of mosaics and custom pieces. Wood Cooperativa Ceramica D'Imola There was no shortage of timber visuals on ceramic at Coverings 2013, but Wood stood out for its 3D wall application that layers ceramic planks on one tile for an authentic clapboard effect. And thanks to its porcelain construction, it is suitable for both interior and exterior applications. D'Imola was also highlighted at Coverings as the first Italian manufacturer to achieve Green Squared certification, a multi-attribute green certification system introduced by the Tile Council of North America last year. Techlam Levantina With the advent of large format tiles, Techlam's flexibility and durability was on display in a new colorway, Arabescato. While the product boasts oversized dimensions of 39- by 118-inch sheets, Techlam measures only 3mm (.12 inches) in thickness. Also available in a 5mm thickness, it can be installed as a ventilated facade cladding system. Quarz Metropol Quarz offers the visuals of natural quartzite without the restrictions that material. More than 20 designs across three colors feature high shade variation. Natural and Lappato finishes are applied to 39- by 20-, 12- by 24-, and 23-inch tiles, while Antislip finishes come on 24-inch and 12- by 24-inch tiles. Frame Refin Extensive investments in production methods and a collaboration with Italian graphic design firm Studio FM Milano resulted in the Frame collection that reimagines traditional tile patterns through modern manufacturing. Carpet, a standout pattern within the collection, interprets the hydraulic/encaustic trend across layers of monochromatic graphic patterning for a fresh take on a popular 20th century European tile look. Flexible Architecture Sant'Agostino Phillippe Starck grows his product empire with a new collection of floor and wall tiles for Sant'Agostino. The collection features unique joint play by a slightly offset bezel above rectified edges. The absence of traditionally grouted joints is further exaggerated by both matte and high gloss finishes on two surface textures; one rocky, one wavy. Eight colors ranging from traditional to trendy further grow design possibilities. Plane StonePeak Ceramic One of the largest products at Coverings was Plane, a 5- by 10-foot porcelain panel. Its large format makes it ideal for seamless installation on walls, floors, countertops, and bath furniture. It is available in nine colors, including stone and metallic looks. Plane was also featured in the Coverings Installation Design Showcase Hotel Lobby vignette.
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Trade shows are no longer simply product exhibitions: Education and networking sessions have become essential components to a show’s success. Coverings has expanded this formula to include installation vignette’s that, built over the course of four days during the show, demonstrate the versatility and variety of applications for ceramic tile. The Installation Design Showcase has paired four local, Atlanta-based design firms with four installation teams that have achieved the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Five Star Recognition, and have been certified by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. Now in its fifth year, the teams will produce a bar/lounge; a hotel lobby; an in-patient room in a women’s birthing center; and a master bathroom, all designed to demonstrate the design possibilities of tile and stone. “These rooms are not all settings in which you would necessarily expect to see tile,” said Bart Bettiga, executive director, NTCA. “Above all, the Showcase highlights just how important the ongoing designer/installer partnership is to a successful project. Bringing the field to life in this way is another example of what makes Coverings a unique and valuable experience.” Bar/Lounge Michael Nieswander and Margaret Nysewander, ASD Inc. In the Bar/Lounge installation (above), designer Nysewander has called a bar of red tiles from Ceramics of Italy manufacturers “a conceptual art piece.” Highlighting the installation strengths of Rimrock Design, the bar’s design calls for varying cuts in the tile to produce unique textures across the surface. The lounge walls are clad in large-format, gray tiles with MAPEI installation products. Hotel Lobby Foreman Rogers and Allison Isaacs, tvsdesign For designers accustomed to working on large hotel lobbies such as the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner Hotel and the Gaylord Nashville, their challenge was to recreate spacious grandeur on a smaller scale. Using Plane, a 5- by 10-foot engineered porcelain ceramic wall panel from StonePeak Ceramics, the team recreates the luxury of Calacatta Borghini marble with a more thin, lightweight, and monolithic material at a fraction of the cost. A team of installers from C.C. Owen Tile Company, Inc. worked with the latest in large format tiles. Glass and mirror tile from Traditions in Tile are secured with TEC installation materials. In-patient Room in a Women’s Birthing Center Mary Porter and Craig Anderchak, VeenendaalCave Healthcare Italian wall tile that mimics a lightly colored fabric invokes serenity and relaxation, along with a warm, wood-look porcelain tile for the floor. “The porcelain tile from Italy will work well with the walls,” said Mary Porter. The David Allen Company set the porcelain with Strata Mat, a new coupling membrane from LATICRETE that creates a barrier between the tile and concrete for crack isolation protection essential to healthcare facilities. Master Bathroom Mark Williams, Mark Williams Design Associates Timely invocation of a 1920s Gatsby aesthetic coincides with Baz Luhrmann’s film release to define a masculine master bath with Art Deco undertones. Products from the Noble Company, TOTO, and Crossville are combined to create neutral walls, blue glass tile accents, and a herringbone-patterned floor. "We used color where we want you to look," Williams said. Collins Tile and Stone set Crossville’s ultra thin Laminam wall tile with MAPEI installation materials.
e+i studio of New York won a design competition for their concept of a trade show pavilion made entirely from Italian tile.Crafting a memorable and intimate environment within voluminous convention halls can be a daunting challenge. To establish a meaningful presence in such environs, Ceramics of Italy tapped into the A&D community with a competition in 2012 for unique booth designs to showcase the products of its manufacturers. Piazza Ceramica, designed by e+i Studio and fabricated by A&M Production, won the competition. Its proposal was installed at the Coverings Tile and Stone trade show in 2012 and 2013. Inspired by Italy’s social culture, architects Ian Gordon and Eva Perez de Vega used the idea of a public space to showcase tiles produced in Italy for a bespoke, modular pavilion that houses a multi-function program of a café, information kiosk, and restaurant. The design utilizes a topographical approach to build up the pavilion’s perimeter with seating and display installed product. “From the beginning, we started to look at the topography in a series of parametric studies to determine the optimal stair/riser ratio to integrate the substructure of the two mounds,” said Perez de Vega. “From there, we wanted color to be an important component to showcase the qualities of the tile to transition smoothly from intense greens to reds to whites.” While parametric tools played a large part in developing the piazza, the designers say the use of Grasshopper was more instrumental than generative. “The digital tools were used where it was useful, but there was also a lot of hand tuning and fine crafting,” Gordon said. “Modeling the project digitally streamlined the initial process. We were able to study more variations in less time to rule out options that didn’t look right.” The digital processes was also essential to the off-site fabricators who are located in Reggio, Italy. From New York, e+i Studio was able to communicate with their Italian team in a short period of time, with exact specifications for each element of the piazza. “The thickness of the mortar, the sizing, had to be as precise as possible and digital fabrication was critical to this,” explained Perez de Vega. “We produced construction documents but the most reliable source was our 3D documents, and the fabricators understood exactly what we were trying to do,” added Gordon. The pavilion was designed as a three-dimensional puzzle, as the temporary installation would be reconfigured for three years in various exhibition halls. A CNC-milled wooden grid forms a shell to support tiled surfaces that grow upwards as seating risers, ultimately cantilevering over the base. Both mounds are mirrored copies so they can be reconfigured for any environment. With the end result, the designers were struck by the juxtaposition of centuries-old materials and new technologies, such as water-jet cutting and digital modeling. “At the beginning, we felt unconstrained about tile being rectilinear, knowing that digital fabrication would let us create what we wanted,” Gordon said. “Infusing the project with curves was possible with digital drawings and communication.”
The Capitol Designer Studio in London's Primrose Hill was recently outfitted with an electrified-looking array of porcelain tiles by architects Lily Jencks and Nathanael Dorent. The installation, called Pulsate, draws from images of Op Art and Gestalt psychology creating an almost dizzying effect, zigzagging from dark gray tiles to light gray tiles and back again. The result is a space where perspective is distorted and where benches are lost along walls. However, the temporary installation is also a retail shop, the product being the very SistemN tiles by Marazzi lining the walls. As Jencks explains on the project website, there were two concepts that drove the installation: "One is about perception—how you perceive distances and shapes; and make sense of space. The other is about how to display an object that's for sale; we wanted the space to be more than just a showroom selling tiles; to rethink the commercial transaction as something more creative." Each tile was meticulously placed to complete the intricate design. If one tile was even a millimeter off, the whole pattern would be off. The ground slopes and the tiles are spread 360 degrees throughout the studio. Lights run along the seams between floor and wall and wall and ceiling, offering the slightest bit of assurance of the studios form. During the nine months the installation stands, the space will host fashion shoots, lectures, and product lunches.
While it seemed as if almost every ceramic tile manufacturer at Cersaie was debuting a new line of faux wood grain textured panels, Patricia Urquiola, Creative Director of Mutina Ceramiche & Design, embraced the artisanal tradition of hand painted 20 by 20 cm decorative tile with her new collection, Azulej. Though the nine different color-rich patterns aren't each painted by Urquiola's own hand, the laser printing has a softer, slightly weathered look, and the unbleached hydraulic cement retains its natural properties, giving the finished porcelain tiles a handcrafted feel. Azulej also includes a white, light grey and dark grey set of 27 patterns designed to be mixed and matched in any number of possible combinations. See the pictures for inspiration or create your own "compositional carpet," as Urquiola calls them.
When architects talk about the "skin" of a building, I realize they're going techie on me, but I also appreciate the sense of lightness and fluidity that the word conveys. (Did they talk about "la peau d'un bâtiment" in those Ecole des Beaux-Arts days?) A delightful "skin" has shown up recently on an office building in Palo Alto, the Peninsula town next to Stanford University. After a fire took down a big Walgreens on the main drag, WRNS Studio (the San Francisco architects who will never realize their design for CAMP in the Presidio), along with Allied Architecture and Design, came up with a building where the facade is partly covered in porcelain tile, with a subtly irregular pattern. Tile companies have been incredibly innovative in recent years--mimicking everything from leather to silk--and it's nice to see architects taking advantage of the new stuff. Below is a close-up of the tile on 310 University Ave. It's from Caesar Ceramiche, an Italian company (surprise!).