The large-size Maxfine slabs by FMG Fabbrica Marmi e Graniti and Active Clean Air & Antibacterial Ceramic™ are more than just simple coverings: first and foremost they are architectural materials. It is interesting to see how architects and designers are using their creativity to reinterpret these porcelain tiles, coming up with new living solutions for interiors and exteriors alike.
An important showcase for their creativity was the International University LAB Competition 2013 [IULC]. It was contested by promising young urban designers from the Spatial Design Teamwork at the Politecnico di Milano (led by Professor Giovanna Piccinno), in conjunction with the University of Brighton Master Degree Course in Interior Design, supervised by Professor and architect Frank O’Sullivan.
Large-size slabs were turned into features of the urban landscape: they were folded, cut, profiled, printed and treated with as much creativity as possible, providing practical solutions to local problems and creating new territorial identities.
There were three macro research groups within the competition: urban SCREENS Landscapes, urban SOUNDS and urban TOOLS Landscapes. The six projects entered in each section were equally fascinating and far-reaching in terms of composition. Ceramic slabs became the real focus of a new vision for cities, one which emphasises their flexibility and range of building applications. It is worthwhile exploring the harmonious yet different ways the large-size ceramics were used, as seen through the range of projects from the talented young urban designers.
TheSCREEN section featured: intricately textured ceramic urban dividers to protect and screen pedestrians from traffic; modular elements which can be folded to frame landscapes and views of the urban space; city traffic barriers in porcelain tiles which, when folded, become tactile pavements and pedestrian pathways; large-size slabs which fit together to form communications supports for public areas; building compositions which create tiny outdoor rooms where people can escape from the chaos of everyday life; and finally, the winner of this section, showing how porcelain tiles can create an identity for minimal urban spaces in the city.
The SOUND section showed how Maxfine tiles can be an effective noise-proof barrier as well as a covering: slabs were cut into modules and reshaped to become new noise-proof, pollution-proof walls; aerial sculptures for city streets, with ceramic modules which produce an urban soundtrack as well as creating an atmosphere; urban dividers designed as inter-relational spaces for city-dwellers and playful new musical instruments; urban micro-domes where people can stop and take shelter from the hubbub of the city; ceramic walls providing isolation and a place to take in the silence; and, last but not least, the winning project in this section: functional urban objects made using Maxfine tiles to change the purposes and aesthetics of residual spaces.
The TOOLS section focused on the ground and its opposite, the air, equipping them with large-size ceramic slabs in a variety of ways: deconstructed slabs which were rebuilt to make new shelters; raised porcelain tile pathways for city parks, an interchange between the built and natural environments; urban trails made from large-size slabs which are raised from the ground to form small shelters, lighting and seating; igloo-style refuges in which ceramic protects users from pollution and shapes a new urban scenery; suspended bridges which can be applied to monuments or panoramic spots, giving unusual views over the city. This section was won by a particularly expressive project which used large-size porcelain tiles to redesign the ground and its endless functions.