The next edition of the world's most important exhibition dedicated to the natural stone industry will be staged in Verona from 26 to 29 September. To give us a preview of what we will see, we interviewed designer Raffaello Galiotto, who at Marmomac 2023 will curate the Herbarium Mirabile exhibition set up in the cultural space of Hall 10

Figures at hand, in 2022 Marmomac was able to count on more than 1,200 exhibiting companies, registering the presence of 47 thousand operators, 63% of whom were foreigners from 132 countries. In your opinion, what is the secret of this success?

In order to compete in the market, trade fairs, like companies, must take on board the needs of customer-exhibitors by constantly investing and implementing strategies, including long-term ones, to improve their service. Marmomac has been able to represent worldwide excellence in the marble sector by focusing more on quality than quantity. An uninterrupted path over the years, tending to increase exhibition quality, rewarding the best layouts, investing in experimentation, realising exhibitions to which it has allocated ample space, promoting Italian technical innovation first and foremost and thus maintaining its position at the top of the sector.

As far as the next edition is concerned, we know that Hall 10 will be a sort of 'cradle of experimentation', within which a very interesting theme such as the relationship between natural stone and the latest generation of machines will be explored. What is Raffaello Galiotto's point of view on this topic? How can machines enhance the qualities of this material?

The use of numerical machines in stone processing is a subject I am passionate about and have been experimenting with for many years. I believe that technological evolution can be a useful opportunity to modernise and enliven the stone sector, especially in a country like Italy that has historically been the cradle of artistic and technical innovation. Italian savoir-faire responds to the innovative attitude of its craftsmanship, capable of quickly finding solutions to every problem. The creative and entrepreneurial ingenuity that distinguishes us is not in conflict with tradition, because our tradition is 'traditionally innovative', i.e. capable of seizing opportunities in change.

Do you think that the use of technology in relation to marble will overshadow the work of man in the future? I am referring to the contribution of those craftsmen who have made working on and with marble a true art form.

It is not clear to me what is meant by the term 'work of man'. If one means that human workmanship that rejects any tools that come between the hand and the material, then one would have to work on the stone with bare hands, but this is not possible. Throughout history, man has challenged the hardness of this material by developing increasingly high-performance tools. First by using the hardest stones to scratch the softest ones, then by producing objects with tough metals, later by introducing hydraulic, electric and pneumatic power to support his arms. Today we have digital technology, which I see as a highly evolved tool, no longer moved by the hand, but controlled numerically. The craftsman who has it can use his ingenuity to make the best use of this device. In this way, man will be able to relieve physical fatigue and free the qualities that characterise him most: the mind and heart. I am well aware that this concept implies a change of great magnitude and that it necessitates the updating of the workers in traditional workshops, historically accustomed to physical work and contact with matter. These new technologies are to be seized as an opportunity and a necessity to keep up with global development, especially for young people. And not as a threat.

As part of the rich programme of cultural events, you will curate the exhibition Herbarium Mirabile in Hall 10, offering an imaginary herbarium defined by a series of works inspired by the plant kingdom. Why did you choose this theme and what should visitors expect?

I am very fascinated by the forms of nature. In this exhibition, my research is oriented towards the plant kingdom, herbs, plants. The exhibition presents itself as a botanical garden, an imaginary herbarium, in which various coloured stones of different origins create allusive shapes inspired by leaves and succulents. The 15 works will be placed on top of rough quarry stones made of Botticino marble and arranged in an open space of 280 square metres. The works are the result of extensive software design and are produced with advanced numerically controlled machinery by the best companies in the industry. The unusual use of tools and mechanical movements in the processing of semi-precious stones is one of the most interesting aspects of this exhibition, especially for the professional Marmomac visitor. The exhibition also aims to stimulate debate on this new expressive language, in which stone sculpture is entirely machined without the slightest touch of the hand.

Marble is today increasingly a protagonist in the world of architecture and design, but what should we expect in the future? What are the possible evolutions of this material and, at the same time, what should an event such as Marmomac do to always tell its story in the most appropriate and in-depth manner?

The new generations have a more attentive relationship with nature and the environment. Today, natural stone maintains or even reinforces its attractive appeal because it authentically recounts the most remote origins of our Planet. Man's impact on the environment, with increasing energy consumption, must necessarily be reduced. Natural stone, with its low energy consumption, can once again become a material of the future. On the other hand, its non-renewability obliges us to reduce its waste and make conscious use of it. I believe that in order to tell the story of the evolution of this material, Marmomac must continue to develop discussion on these issues, through research and experimentation with the involvement of companies and universities.