The ceramics industry, even when it seeks diversity, has to deal with the issue of repeatability of the basic module, of decorations and surface hues. This means that the final product must necessarily be standardised, falling within a certain range of standardisation, however large or narrow. Having internalised this principle, companies interpret it by underlining the exceptional qualities of each individual item through careful study of mixes and the effects created by different sizes. At this point it would seem clear that there are two points of view for looking at design to understand to what extent an apparently contradictory attitude such as diversification of standardisation belongs to the world of ceramic surfaces.
These are the two aspects of a single way of working with matter: industrial design on the one hand and the architect’s form of design on the other. Industrial design necessarily requires standardisation of production, while in architectural design this standardisation is used in the laying scheme to diversify the final effect. The two approaches come together in the work that W. Benjamin began at the beginning of the last century, when he theorised that reproducibility could be an expression of creative action. This ideological stream, which runs right through the twentieth century, led to identification of the image as the value of historic reference in which past, present and future are revealed in an object, not only due to its uniqueness but due to its ability to be reproducible in an infinite number of basic components, later processed by individual thought.
At this point it becomes interesting to see how a cladding module can take on a new design identity, in that it sums up in contemporary culture precisely the unique fact of being an object which is both diversified and standardised, maintaining unaltered the properties and the image of a reproducible manufacture that is open to interpretation.
So let’s not call them tiles any more, but design modules for architectural and urban cladding, elements capable of characterising a place’s identity. They are on one hand the fruit of industrial research and standardisation of size and colour, and on the other the basis for infinite creative compositions when in professional hands. We shall look at a number of examples to identify their features and how they overcame the barrier of the traditional tile to become true modules produced by industrial design at the service of creativity.
Fiandre offers the Extreme line in the 150X75cm size and in seven colour schemes inspired by different types of marble, focusing on size as a creative experience of the surface of the cladding. These are slabs meant for use in a new kind of installation design. Or the Series 100, which follows the trends of the most recent work in industrial design to combine large sizes with ecology with the aim of achieving 100% sustainability using the highest possible percentage of products recycled from the ceramics industry and other industries: a new material that encourages interaction between image and respect for the environment.
Eiffelgres experiments with technology to give form to the Sensibile line available with Sign, Rise and Bush-hammered finishes, in which visual perception becomes aesthetic and structural design. In Sign, texture becomes more or less evident depending on the observer’s point of view, while Rise underlines minimal differences in the relief of the surface. Another Eiffelgres product combining industrial design with flexible laying is Pietrlavica, available in a wide range of sizes: the traditional 60x60cm and 60x30cm, plus strips, decorations and special pieces, and the new 90x60cm, 90x30cm and 90x15cm slabs.
Equally interesting is the way use of colour, combined with different sizes, becomes a prerogative of FMG’s Shine line, composed of solid slabs in which a slight "diamonding" dug gently into the layer of material produces subtle irregular waves, preserving the particular qualities of natural stone. The surface’s chromatic and graphic textures are identical throughout the slab, and hues are controlled from module to module.
These characteristics also appear in the latest new surfaces presented on the market by FMG, in which the hues of marble are offered in 8 new versions of solid porcelain stoneware slabs, including 3 man-made marbles, 2 man-made travertines and 3 man-made stones with background colour and veins in the same hue.
By Paolo Schianchi
Italian Floor Tiles - Fiandre
Eiffelgres Porcelain Stoneware
Marble, stones, granites tiles - FMG Fabbrica Marmi e Graniti