Cersaie: The Global Tile Show - November 2012

 

By Ruth Simon McRae

 

Cersaie, the global international ceramic tile expo, celebrated its 30th anniversary this year in Bologna, Italy. The show took place in late September and the 20 exhibition halls on the fairgrounds were at full capacity, with 900 companies from 33 countries. Attendance was up 20% this year to 100,000 people, including 32% grateful and inspired international visitors.

Ceramic materials have many inherent attributes. They can be pressed and molded into shape. Color can be through-body and applied to the surface, then fired so it is a permanent part of the material. It has many sustainable attributes including zero VOC emissions and can be treated to become inherently antibacterial and self-cleaning.

Over the last few years we have seen ceramic materials recreate other building materials in a very realistic way. Stone, alabaster, marble, granite and wood interpretations are practically indistinguishable from the source material—except for wood, of course, because a ceramic interpretation of wood planks will last much longer and take a higher degree of abuse than the natural material. Advances in inkjet technology have helped make possible this degree of realism.

At Cersaie, these materials were truly taken to the next level. Stone and marble looks appeared increasingly realistic. And there were a variety of finishes, running the gamut from super glossy to matte, including textures such as bush-hammered. High definition imaging and randomization of pattern created new visuals, such as Lafaenza’s Pretiosa. Imola, the parent company, has the distinction of being the oldest artisan cooperative in Italy. The firm also introduced Studio, which had the softened look of leather tile. One designer said, “My favorite thing about ceramic tile is when something so hard looks so soft.”

Large format tile continues to be an important trend. Companies this year offered even larger sizes—up to 48”x117” (Flor Gres’ Magnum)—and broader ranges of sizes available within each material. The extremely large format tile allows for fewer seams and is more proportional to large public spaces. Many ranges include accent pieces, or ‘jewelry,’ and solid color accents. A designer can now specify an entire building using all of the component parts within one product line.

Thickness is also a variable, with very thin tile now available down to 3mm.

Three dimensional textures, either within one tile or achieved by combining multiple tiles of varying thicknesses, offered textural interest. Exciting new products in this genre were seen at Panaria and Love. Naturally, these types of products are primarily appropriate for wall application. 

Leading ceramic manufacturers continue to excel with sophisticated neutral color palettes that organize their entire product offerings. Casamood got on the map with its Nutria product launch several years ago; the firm continues this design leadership this year with Materia. This series of products had a palette of seven neutral colors in five materials with a range of textural effects, including paint, gloss, crusted, décor, bark, brushed and honed. Throughout Cersaie, the neutral palettes shown were outstanding. The systems of color organization on display at Marazzi and Imola are good examples; everywhere you turned there was another beautiful, subtle range of grey, beige and taupe, calibrated from light to dark.

There were two big trend stories at Cersaie. One was the introduction of line extensions for the natural-look materials, especially in wood plank. Finishes included more aged and distressed looks. Arrangements extended from plank to parquet; some included carved and inset or ‘ghosted’ motifs. Good examples of this look were seen at Richetti in the Robert Cavalli line and in FAP’s Decori. Vives showcased barnwood effects with layered color. And Cisa Ceramiche’s Mywood product interspersed random planks with the stamped motifs of reclaimed shipping cartons within an overall wood plank floor.

Other materials, especially concrete and stone looks, were used more abstractly—as textural elements—within one floor layout. This is a move from the prior use of monolithic material that has been used, for example, to achieve the poured look of concrete. 

Emil expressed this theme with a different approach in its Back to Back Collection, mixing rough bark textured tiles with the same coloration in highly polished tile, in effect showing the front and the back of the wood together.

However, the biggest trend story at Cersaie 2012 was actually a counter-trend to all this sophistication and understatement. Pattern was everywhere. At Mutina, Patricia Urquiola introduced an astonishing range of small to medium scale designs, mixed and matched in patchwork arrangements on the floor. Urquiola’s stated philosophy is that ceramic tile should not imitate other materials, but should honor its tradition of historic tile design, such as classic Alhambra and encaustic technique. 

Altaeco featured Marcel Wanders’ Minoo flooring tiles, which celebrated this design tradition with highly detailed, paisley-derived motifs. Ceramiche Refin’s Frame collection was another real stunner, with bold mix and match flooring tile groupings: Carpet, Geometric, Weave and Majolica.

Mutina had the broadest offering, showcasing unusual designs from both name designers and its own studio. Imagery ranged from the modern texture of a crumpled paper bag to the perforations of an abstract lace-inspired design. The highly textured Tex and Pico collections were standouts.

Marazzi featured the re-introduction of Joe Ponti’s Triennale design from the 1960s. At that time, they did not have the technology to mass-produce these puzzle-piece shaped tiles. Contrasting colored grout can be very effective visually but is not a technical necessity due to the precise nature of each shape.
Unusual tile shapes were also in evidence at Etruria in its Hex Collection and at Mutina.

Sant’Agustino was one of the companies hardest hit by the earthquake; the firm signaled its renaissance with Flexible Architecture, a new collection by Philippe Starck. Starck’s simple yet eloquent concept was built on treating the edge profile as a design element. Designers attending Cersaie seemed very intrigued by this product collection.

Brilliant mosaic looks offered visual punch and contrast. Many mosaics were primarily used as wall applications (great job at Trend), although in some areas they were also seen on the floor. Sicis had an outstanding display, as did Altaeco, with its photorealistic depiction of the Colosseum on the wall and inset mosaic ‘rug’ on the floor.

Sustainability is an area where ceramic tile flooring stands tall. Manufacturers are able to offer up to 75% recycled content—typical amounts were in the range of 40%–with a high amount of post-consumer content The post-industrial content comes mostly from the reclamation of material during water recycling in the mill. Post-consumer material is often glass, taken from cathode ray TV screens and light bulbs. Interestingly, darker colors tend to have a higher level of recycled content. Some companies, Pietro Jura for one, have developed lower temperature firing processes, achieving up to a 100º C reduction from prior processes. Another company, Florim, uses a co-generator to create electricity for the plant from its firing process. Sunny Italy offers an opportunity for many plants to operate photovoltaic systems.

Both anti-microbial and self-cleaning features are available. Casalgrande Padana featured Bios Self Cleaning Ceramics with material provided by its partnership with a plumbing products manufacturer. The surface treatments of Ti02 interact with UV light to activate oxygen on the surface of exterior tile, decomposing surface bacteria. Many companies also offer an inherent anti-bacterial feature, which is achieved by the addition of silver to the tile body, with an expected 100-year effectiveness.

One innovation to watch for in the future is installation options. Trend featured a “clip-to-go” system that could bring ceramic tile into the do-it-yourself market. 

The sky seems to be the limit for the ceramic tile market. With so many visual and textural possibilities, architects and designers have an almost endless set of tools to achieve their vision. Whether building on the unique properties of tile or adapting the look of other building materials, the ceramic industry has proven itself to be innovative, flexible and endlessly inventive. It will be fascinating to see what comes next.


5.8 MAGNITUDE QUAKE

The earthquake in Italy last May seriously affected many aspects of the Italian economy, including agriculture, as well as many historic and public buildings and overall infrastructure. With its epicenter in the Emilia-Romagna region (a 9,000 square mile area with Bologna in the center), the earthquake's shockwaves had a major impact on the ceramic tile industry, an important part of the manufacturing sector in Italy and setter of trends for the rest of the world. Damage is estimated to be 12 billion euros in this region alone. The Italian government has rushed in to help rebuild the industry, and already has eight billion euros of public money ready to reinvest and rebuild.



Copyright 2012 Floor Focus 

 



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