With concerns about the difficult economic times that have hit worldwide -- particularly in the Central European building industry -- and the fear of SARS circulating in the period leading up to the exhibition, show organizer N?rnbergMesse was pleasantly surprised with the positive turnout for Stone+tec 2003. The show, which was held from May 29 to June 1 in N?rnberg, Germany, attracted 40,199 visitors from 100 countries and 1,172 exhibitors from 56 different nations.

While this is a decrease from the 46,102 attendees and 1,251 exhibitors in 2001, the show's organizers believe that given the circumstances, this year's exhibition proved to be successful. "Stone+tec 2003 has positively surprised us all," stated Walter Hufnagel, member of the management board of N?rnbergMesse. "The success of Stone+tec has, however, proved how important this forum is for the worldwide natural stone industry. The drops in the number of exhibitors and visitors reflect the market situation, but have not restricted the quality; on the contrary, it has improved."

The net display area of 473,611 square feet included a wide spectrum of natural stone products for both interior and exterior applications as well as the latest developments in maintenance, preservation and restoration products for natural stone. Additionally, demonstrations of both large-scale fabricating and quarrying equipment and hand-held machinery were given throughout each of the four days.

A total of 34% of the exhibiting companies came from Germany and 66% from Europe and overseas. Following Germany, Italy had the second largest presence with 245 exhibiting companies. In addition, 42 of the European exhibitors were from Turkey; 37 from Spain; 20 from France; and 20 from Austria. Outside of Europe, 144 of the exhibiting companies hailed from China, followed by India with 52 and Brazil with 18.

According to statistics released by N?renbergMesse, almost 90% of the exhibitors made new business connections and 73% of the companies expect follow-up business as a result of their contacts and talks during the exhibition. Although the success of the individual exhibitors at the event differed dramatically, on average, over 70% were satisfied with the overall success of exhibiting at Stone+tec 2003, and another 7% commented that they were extremely pleased with their results, reported show organizers. A total of 56% of exhibitors confirmed by the last day of the show that they would be there again at the next Stone+tec in 2005.

Show highlights

During the four-day exhibition, several "specialty" shows were available to attendees. Seven companies participated in "StoneAmbiance," which introduced ideas for modern home designs. Among the displays were bath furnishings with clear design lines, natural stone floors, Italian mosaics, and marble and granite countertops and vanities.

Another attraction for visitors was "Desire for Eternity," which was a joint project of the National Guild (BIV), the Deutscher Naturwerkstein-Verband (DNV), companies such as Sievers, Strassacker and Signal-Iduna Versicherung as well as other sponsors. This display included approximately 50 examples and artistic interpretations of exotic grave designs of stone, bronze and other materials, which formed a dialogue with photos from the Munich photographer Isolde Ohlbaum and texts from Friedrich Nietzsche, Heinrich Heine, Clemens Brentano, Wilhelm Busch and others. The very individual objects conveyed an impression of how strongly culture and art are interwined in the sepulchral culture of Europe and how personally gravestones can be designed.

Two award ceremonies were also a part of Stone+tec 2003. The Peter Parler Award was presented for exemplary achievements by stonemasons in the preservation of historic buildings and monuments, such as high-quality work on registered buildings made of natural stone. The award, which was first presented in 1999, is intended to increase the awareness of the contribution stonemasons make towards the preservation of cultural assets.

The award comprises two parts, the Federal Guild's creative award and the conservation award presented by the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz. The creative award -- worth a total of 7,500 Euro (approximately $8,600) -- was shared this year by Stephan Busch for copies of trophies and ornamental bowls at Ludwigsburg Castle and Andreas Geith for supplementary work on the southern group of Centaurs in the "GroBer Garten" in Dresden. The conservation award -- also worth 7,500 Euro (approximately $8,600) -- went to Christoph Kronewirth for the conservation and restoration of a Roman marble statue in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Peter Parler was the chief master of the Parlers, a widely dispersed family of architects and sculptors in the 14th century. The award intentionally bears his name in recognition of the influence of this architect throughout Europe. The award is given to bring public awareness of the fact that stonemasons contribute towards the maintenance and preservation of the natural heritage, and as a result, improve the standing of the stonemasonry trade. Internally, the competition and presentation is intended to encourage stonemasons to become more involved in the preservation of historic buildings and monuments, and to apply principles and quality standards applicable to official preservation work.

Stone+tec 2003 also included the presentation of the German Natural Stone Award, which is one of the most noted architecture prizes in Germany. The German Natural Stone Award is presented every two years by the Deutscher Naturwerkstein-Verband (DNV) in co-operation with the Bund Deutscher Architekten (BDA), and is promoted by N?rnbergMesse. This year's award was presented to the consultant architects Ortner & Ortner of Vienna/Berlin for the new building for the Saxon state library in Dresden. Special merits were awarded to architects Bruckner & Bruckner (Tirschenreuth), Knoll Okoplan GmbH (Leipzig), Hoger Hare Architekten (Berlin) and Thomas van den Valentyn (Cologne). Architects Burger Landschaftsarchitekten (Munich), Max Dudler (Berlin), Gluck und Partner (Stuttgart), GTL - Gnuchtel & Triebswetter (Kassel), Gunter Hermann (Stuttgart) and Prof. Hans Kollhoff (Berlin) were highly commended. The setting for the ceremony was provided by the artistic performance by Klaus FeBmann, university professor at the Salzburg Mozarteum, who transposed two almost head-high columns of travertine and serpentine into musical vibrations to richly colored macrophotos by Konrad Gotz.

New this year to Stone+tec was the "Seminar for Tilesetters," which demonstrated the special requirements for handling natural stone tiles. Professionals from the industry spoke about laying natural stone tiles without damage. Admission to the event was free, and it attracted over 100 tilesetters. The three-hour seminar was intended to make tilesetters aware of natural stone as an alternative to ceramic tiles, according to show organizers.

Another highlight of the show was "The Architects' Area," which was intended to make the exhibition visit easier for architects and building planners, who comprise over 5% of the visitors. A special hall plan and references to the exhibition stands participating in the scheme showed the shortest way to a wide variety of natural stone material and the necessary fixing systems -- an offer that was used by several hundred architectural offices, reported NurenbergMesse.

Traffic control

Those visiting Stone+tec this year also witnessed the new traffic control system in the N¿renberg region and within the city itself, which provided distinct relief for the traffic flows. The Nurnberg authorities, the North Bavarian Motorway Authority and NurnbergMesse are investing some 35 million Euro (over $40 million) in the expansion of this modern traffic control system. Around 200 signs are being installed on 42 miles of motorway and 20 miles of roads in the city. The goal is for motorists to reach their destinations -- such as the exhibition center, stadium, city center, airport or port -- as quickly and easily as possible, reducing congestion and traffic annoyance for residents.

"This creates a new level of quality for transport connections to the exhibition center in particular, but also to the other event centers in the surrounding area," stated Dr. Roland Flack, Head of the Department for economic Affairs in N¿renberg. "No comparable system has information available at such an early stage, controls the driver far before the actual destination area, and then continuously guides the driver to a clear route to a specific destination. This concept is only possible due to N¿rnberg's position, and the event locations as far as the surrounding road transport network is concerned and systematically utilizes this advantage."

The next edition of Stone+tec is scheduled from May 25 to 28, 2005. A conscious decision was made to move the exhibition's running time, and it will take place from Wednesday to Saturday in 2005. "The decision to move the running time forward by one day is in line with suggestions from the exhibitors, exhibitors committee and sponsor, and with considerations by N¿rnbergMesse," stated Hufnagel. "The attendance will therefore be better distributed over the four days of the exhibition, as the Sunday traditionally attracted the fewest visitors. In addition, the first day of the exhibition is now no longer the public holiday, but the Wednesday, which is a full working day."