Two characteristics set marble and natural stones apart from any other natural material: they cannot be reproduced (unlike wood and trees, for example) and they have a territorial identity (being from the earth itself).
These factors make them precious and, in some ways, unique, impossible to replicate. This is probably why stones, from the dawn of time, have been seen as having magical value (the Philosopher’s Stone, the symbol of alchemy, capable of healing the corruption of matter) or a sacred value: just consider the moai of the island of Rapa Nui (“big stone”), or the monoliths of Stonehenge (“suspended stone”), or the menhirs (“long stone”) of the coast of Brittany, not to mention the dolmens on prehistoric tombs. This heavy, sacred physical nature of stone prompted Stanley Kubrick, in the film “2001: A Spacy Odyssey” to represent God as a stone monolith. Yet in spite of this important and fascinating history, marbles and stones seen out of reach and hard to use in architecture and design. Research on end-users conducted by Marmomacc during the 2013 edition revealed that over 50% associate marble with famous monuments, the floors and steps of important historical buildings, and that most people still think of stone materials as being prevalently used for large-scale works. But is it really so hard to use marble in design culture? For cladding and finishing, stones and marbles are associated with wellness (Turkish baths, hot springs, spas), and in fact they are used extensively in the design of hotels and fitness centers. They are versatile, lending themselves to many indoor and outdoor applications: floors, pavements, objects, furnishings, worktops, staircases. They are easy to maintain and clean, and thanks to modern technology they have become easier to work with, leading to previously unthinkable formal solutions (curves, textures, patterns, bas reliefs). Major architects and designers use them for their projects: from Steven Holl to Philippe Starck, Snøhetta Architects to Richard Meier, Cesar Pelli to Renzo Piano, Giulio Iacchetti to Ludovica & Roberto Palomba, Luca Scacchetti, Matali Crasset, Paolo Ulian. Their characteristics for health (no electrostatic charges, prevention of growth of bacterial microorganismi and molds), safety (non-flammable), acoustic performance (thanks to porosity and particular workmanship), thermal efficacy (stone cladding contributes to building energy efficiency by optimizing the quantity of energy used for heating and cooling) and sustainability are leading to new, unexpected uses. Stone and marble materials are increasingly popular, with widespread use linked to their technical performance and beauty, but also to the ability of the companies involved in quarrying and manufacture to innovate and develop original applications, through ongoing technological advances. On the wave of this rediscovery of marbles and stones in the world of architecture and design, from 24 to 27 September in Verona the 49th edition of Marmomacc will be held, the International Fair of Marble, Design and Technologies. This year’s new development is the coordination with the fair Abitare il Tempo, to create a true design forum that combines the two events, concentrating on the themes of design and contract business. While Marmomacc, as usual, occupies the pavilions of Veronafiere, Abitare il Tempo is now located at Palaexpo. The point of encounter is Pavilion 1, which welcomes cultural exhibitions, events and conferences of Inside Marmomacc & Abitare il Tempo. A new fair concept that guarantees greater mingling of the visitors of the two shows, while allowing all exhibitors to take part in the interesting program of activities through corporate workshops, B2B encounters and experimental exhibitions. The calendar is full of events. “Living Stone” approaches the excellence of Made in Italy and the great Iberian architects, with installations on the theme of the patio house interpreted by Manuel Aires Mateus with Grassi Pietre, Josep Miàs with Travertino Sant’Andrea, Eduardo Souto de Moura with Piba Marmi, Benedetta Tagliabue with Decormarmi; “Renzo Piano and Malta” shows an original stone facade for the new parliament building; “Vertical Stones” shows prototypes in stone by students in the Industrial Product Design degree program of the University of Ferrara; “Stereotomic Design” examines architecture conceived by using vaulted features and systems; “Design and Technology” presents technological excellence, the capacity for transformation and creativity in the Italian stone materials sector; “At Home” is the exhibition of Marmomacc & Abitare il Tempo for the contract sector. There are also prizes for degree theses, on “Landscape, architecture and design with stone,” now in the third edition, and initiatives of education, training and research, including the workshops of “Stone Academy,” an association that connects universities, professionals and institutions involved in training, research and academic and professional approaches to the use of stone in architecture. We asked Ettore Riello, president of Veronafiere, to talk about Marmomacc 2014 and to indicate the latest prospects for stone materials in the world of design and architecture. What are the new developments at Marmomacc 2014? The new developments are based on a sense of continuity with a well-structured project that has met with the approval of the protagonists of this sector: companies, designers, buyers and contractors. With each edition, the fair offers initiatives, events and appointments, of a cultural and commercial nature, with innovative content to reflect trends in the world of architecture and design, and on world markets, regarding natural stone, technologies, machinery and accessories. One major new move is the collaboration between Marmomacc and Abitare il Tempo. Is this just a new form of cross-marketing, or are their other motivations behind this choice? The motivations also lie in shared objectives of the fairs, namely internationalism, meaning the presence of exhibitors and visitors from abroad, the optimum time period for both sectors of reference, content oriented towards the world of architects and designers, and international contract – all areas addressed in the promotional activities of both events. So Pavilion 1 will host the exhibitions of the two fairs and the shared initiatives of Marmomacc and Abitare il Tempo, with a precise focus on contract. One of the factors behind the success of Marmomacc has been the choice of combining business with design and product culture. For Marmomacc, then, is design seen as an added value in any production of stone products? The idea of juxtaposing the world of stone with that of design, architecture and education has been a good one, starting the engines of innovation and creativity that make Marmomacc the leading international laboratory for knowledge of stone, development of its expressive potential and applications, for the design and furnishing of indoor and outdoor spaces. What are the initiatives most closely connected to design and architecture, which make Marmomacc an innovative laboratory of ideas and projects? Education is one of the aspects that fills us with pride. From the lectures by the most important architects to the courses in collaboration with institutions and professional associations from the USA, Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, Hungary. Marmomacc has created and heads, furthermore, the Stone Academy association, which in collaboration with the Architecture Department of the Milan Polytechnic involves over 20 Italian and international universities in the production of seminars and second-level masters programs on designing with stone, also offering credits for the students. In the context of this special relationship with higher education, this year there will be prizes for the best degree theses on the theme of designing with stone. In the natural stone sector, Italian exports have grown in 2013 by about 10%, breaking the 1.8 billion euro mark. Undoubtedly a positive trend in times of crisis. What is the outlook for the near future? This is a trend that has continued in the first two months of 2014, with a rise in export value of 5.9% over the same period last year. This sector, together with that of machinery and technologies, represents one of the excellent areas of Italian manufacturing, a unique heritage of knowhow recognized all over the world. The mission of the fair continues beyond the days of Marmomacc, throughout the year, with Marmomacc in the World. What are the future developments for this initiative? Is the choice of internationalization the right one for the future of the fair and, more generally, for the economy of our country? The activity of internationalization has positive results from a range of viewpoints: in the incoming foreign operators at the fairs we organize in Verona, and for exports of the small and medium businesses in the sector. Marmomacc in the World addresses both established and emerging construction markets, through a calendar of events in the Middle East, the USA, Brazil and Africa. In Brazil, thanks to the partnership with Simest and Sace, the investment has been an important one, with the creation of Veronafiere do Brasil. A new format for Abitare il Tempo With the 2014 edition Abitare il Tempo becomes a show but also a place of B2B encounters, updating, research, training and cultural exchange. From At Home (the potential of stone in design for contract) in tune with Marmomacc, to Luxury & Relax Living (use of stone in areas for wellness and relaxation), from the exhibition Art Design (prototypes of furnishings in different materials) to Wine & Relax (a concept room with monolithic forms in stone, wood, metal, water). At the Palaexpo, an exhibition in collaboration with the Architects’ Association of Verona features objects and furnishings by designers from that city. In collaboration with ADI Veneto & Trentino Alto Adige, another exhibition and cycle of encounters focus on decoration and research on original materials and finishes for interiors. Abitare il Tempo, together with Marmomacc, is also the setting for the awards assigned to the best projects in the contest From Nature to Design, organized by Marmi Bruno Zanet. Finally, the cooperation with Fondazione Aldo Morelato leads to the project “Signifying Furniture – decor elements as vehicles of values and meanings,” to promote the production of quality furniture, stimulate innovation and promote the productive territory of Verona on an international level.