For many stone industry purists, the stoneworking region of Carrara, Italy, is the heart of our industry. As the home of Carrara White marble - Michelangelo’s material of choice - it has a built-in history in stone. More importantly, it has been home to generations of stoneworking professionals who are passionate about stone and its place in architecture, art and culture. I’ve been traveling to this region for over 10 years, and every time I visit, I am reminded that this dedication to the artistry of stone remains alive and well today.

Recently, the CarraraMarmotec Fair - which is the international centerpiece of the region - announced some changes that better align the event with the area’s industry makeup, starting with this year’s show, which is set for May 29 to June 1 (see page 98 of this issue).

According to show organizers, the fair is being reorganized to cater more to the world of architecture and design. Moreover, the event will now be staged every two years, taking place in even-numbered years (when Stone+tec Nürnberg, also a biennial show, is not held).

Both of these changes are solid decisions by CarraraFiere, which organizes the event, and they will hopefully ensure that the show will remain a solid event for decades to come. The decision to go biennial had been debated for some time, and given the influx of stone trade fairs on the international front, it should serve to boost attendance and energy on the show floor. In the years when CarraraMarmotec is not held, organizers report that the show will still carry a presence. “Events will be staged for architects and designers, who will be able to appreciate what Carrara and its network of quality companies have to offer,” explained Giorgio Bianchini, Chairman of CarraraFiere.

Meanwhile, the decision to cater toward architects and designers is very well suited to the activities of many stoneworking companies in the region. At virtually all times, Carrara area firms are processing stone for prestigious architectural works around the world - including many projects in the U.S. One example of this can be found in the Miami International Airport in Florida, which is featured on page 146 of this issue. The intricate stonework for this project was fabricated by Campolonghi Italia, S.p.A., a Carrara area firm. This same firm also recently announced that it is restoring an old structure on its property to become a stone “studio” for architects, artists, engineers and anyone else who is interested in using stone in unique and innovative ways. Appropriately, the slogan of the new facility is “Imagines Formamus” (“We carve dreams”). So even while the Carrara region is home to a broad range of advanced, state-of-the-art slab plants, its essence lies in the “crafting” of stone - from the gifted carvers working blocks of marble in Pietrasanta to the skilled workers operating the CNC machines to complete large-scale architectural work.

While CarraraMarmotec’s transformation will not be complete until the 2010 edition, this year’s show will include a broad range of architectural initiatives, including existing programs such as the Marble Architectural Awards (see page 108 of this issue) as well as new events such as “Natural Stone Vision,” which seeks to encourage an exchange of ideas and dialogue between stone suppliers and international architects and designers.

Hopefully, these initiatives will breathe new life into the Carrara Fair, because any stone industry member needs to visit this region first hand. And even though I’ve been to the region nearly a dozen times, I am as anxious as ever to go back there later this month.