Report from Europe - Stone artistry flourishes in Southern Italy

September 20, 2001
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Located in the Salento region of Italy, Pimar, srl quarries blocks of Lecce limestone for sculptural and architectural projects.

Automated machinery by Bremor is used to process the stone. The Bremor equipment is used for cutting as well as calibrating and trimming.
The stonework in the Salento region of Southern Italy has a rich history that spans across many centuries and cultures. Located in the southern part of Puglia and extending between the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas, the land was home to Greek, Byzantine, Saracen and Aragonese settlers over the centuries, who left traces of their passage impressed in stone. Today, the stone-producing firm Pimar, srl., which means "Pietra Marrocco," has its central offices in the Salento region's Province of Lecce, a rich area of limestone quarries.

The company's management consists of President Salvatore Marrocco --who founded the firm -- and three family members: Giorgina Marrocco, a lawyer who is responsible for administration and contracts; Giuseppe Marrocco, who provides sales management for the Italian and Northern European market; and Daniele Marrocco, who oversees production. The activity of the Marrocco family in the limestone sector has its origins in the 19th century, with knowledge passed from generation to generation for over 150 years.

The core business of Pimar, which has 50 workers, is to extract limestone blocks, and fabricate them into products for the building trade. The company's quarries span across 75 acres, allowing for a vast reserve of stone for production. Because of the stone's high durability and strong technical characteristics, the stone can be used for indoor or outdoor paving as well as a broad range of architectural elements.

Decorative architectural work includes arches, balusters, cornices, structural blocks, window and door frames, cladding, columns, fireplace mantles and other pieces. Additionally, Pimar produces decorative articles, which emphasize Mediterranean history, and a broad range of sculptural work.

The sculptural work is a particular area of interest for Pimar, as the skill of its sculptors is a reflection of the rich history of the land. "The Salento is a land of artists, not only of craftsmen," said Germano Vecchio, president of Pimar USA, Inc. "And the workmanship of the limestone is one of the most characteristic expressions of creativity and of the Salento people's taste."

Vecchio explained that the artisans of the Salento were renowned during the Baroque period, creating exclusive works of art in limestone for a national and world market. "In this context, we can insert Pimar's production, which is a leader in the provincial market as well as the international territory," he said.

In addition to relying on the skill of its workers, Pimar has a range of state-of-the-art machinery for production. This includes a complete cutting line from Bremor as well as a complete calibrating and trimming line, also from Bremor.

Pimar has sought to diversify its production and extend its sales target to engineers, architects, building firms and interior decorators — with particular interest in foreign markets. Some of the company's most important projects have been: the new seminary for the curia of Lecce in Italy; the castle of Otranto; and the commercial center Auchan in Casamassima, Bari, Italy, one of the most important French shopping center chains.

In the U.S., the company is currently working on the St. Sarrant project at the corner of Roswell and Queens Road East in the heart of Meyers Park in Charlotte, NC. The project, owned by Bob Lee of Elite Homebuilders of Charlotte, is a luxury residence being completed along with Todd Brown of Choate Construction.

A total of 60% of sales is within Italy and Europe, with the remaining 40% of production being sold overseas. The times for delivery range from 10 days to a maximum of 60 days for custom products, and immediate delivery is possible for standard products. To provide technical advice for customers, Pimar maintains an architecture and design department in house.

Two years ago, Pimar increased its international presence by establishing offices in the U.S. With intentions of providing quality assistance throughout the U.S., Canada, and South America, Pimar USA Inc. is located in Wilmington, NC, with Germano Vecchio as president.

Sidebar - A brief history of the stone of Lecce

Although the tradition of Pimar can be traced over 150 years, the stone of Lecce has even more ancient origins. Scholars date it back to Miocene, a period of the Tertiary Era which took place from 17 million to 23 millions of years ago. The limestone belongs to the family of Miocenic calcarenites. It is characterized by the presence of several fossil fragments of planktonic and bienthic species, which sometimes are kept nearly intact. These elements are considered to be true archeological finds, traces of the millions of years that this stone has lived.

A petrographic test reveals that the stone of Salento is composed of a granular mixture -- microfossils, fragments of fossils, intraclasts and pellets -- incorporated in calcitic cement. Its basic constituent is calcium carbonate. To a smaller degree, the stone contains granules of glauconite, quartz, feldspar, muscovite, phosphates and clay materials, which can enrich its contents and make it hard and resistant, or soft and ductile, according to Pimar.

The stone of Lecce features outstanding technical qualities, including a high degree of durability, Pimar reports, pointing out that the stone has been used as flooring for centuries without difficulty. The stone is also non-conductive, which makes it appropriate for fireplace designs and kitchen applications, and it also naturally protects itself from atmospheric agents in an exterior environment.

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