The latest edition of the CarraraMarmotec trade fair was held from May 29 to June 1 in Carrara, Italy, and the new, updated version of the event drew attendees from around the world.

Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, the CarraraMarmotec trade fair in Carrara, Italy, has held a special connection with the nearby mountains of White Carrara marble - Michelangelo’s material of choice - as well as the stone artisans in the region. But this latest edition - held from May 29 to June 1 - was the first under a modified format that strengthens this bond, and it drew a higher level of international attendance than ever before.

According to organizers of the fair, CarraraMarmotec drew 19,120 attendees, including 2,878 foreign visitors from 90 different countries - an increase of 21.2% over the previous year. Additionally, the majority of visitors were designated as “professional” visitors such as businessmen, technicians, trade operators, architects, designers and building contractors. “This means that simple onlookers have decreased, to such an extent that the absolute number of entrances has slightly decreased, but there has been a substantial rise in the number of professionals - the kind of visitors that is most interesting for the exhibitors and that makes or breaks a fair,” read a statement from the organizers.

The statistics processed just after the fair suggest that the largest number of foreign operators came from France (18%) and Brazil (14%), followed by Germany (10%), Egypt (9%), Spain (8%) and Switzerland (7%).

Attendance quality at CarraraMarmotec 2008 was boosted by the presence of official delegations of operators, technicians and architects from about 20 countries. These delegates were assembled by the ICE (Foreign Trade Commission) and Toscana Promozione, and the largest delegations came from Brazil, Algeria, the U.S., South Africa, Bulgaria, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Thailand, Ukraine and Poland.
In terms of exhibitors, there were 400 exhibiting companies at CarraraMarmotec, including 44 foreign companies from 18 countries. The companies offered a full range of marble, granite and stone materials from all over the world. Additionally, the event included exhibits of the latest stoneworking technology.

“[It was] a very satisfactory balance, in terms of the numbers and standards of the exhibitors and operators; a technical and commercial event, with the best marble companies and the most sophisticated technology, which delivered good commercial results for machinery and showed a more complex trend for dimensional stones,” said Giorgio Bianchini, President of CarraraMarmotec.

According to organizers of the fair, CarraraMarmotec drew 19,120 attendees, including 2,878 foreign visitors from 90 different countries.

Natural Stone Vision

“One of the highlights this year was the installation of the area which we named Natural Stone Vision, an area that hosted great pieces of design and works by important contemporary sculptors, as well as a debate with the greatest names of contemporary architecture and design,” Bianchini said. “We staked on the charm and atmosphere that marble evokes in designers, bringing them into the ‘heart’ of marble to involve them in a debate that tries to give them new ideas and stimuli about how to use dimensional stone.”

Natural Stone Vision took place in Hall E, one of the most visited halls in the exhibition center. The Natural Stone Vision was designed as an open “cube” space - black on the outside and white on the inside.

The meeting at Natural Stone Vision was chaired by Aldo Colonnetti, scientific director of IED and editor-in-chief of the magazine Ottagono. Speakers included Luisa Bocchietto, President of ADI; Nicola Lattanzi, President of Distretto del Marmo di Carrara; architect Silvia Nerbi, curator of the “Vision” project; architect Paolo Armenise, artistic director of the project; Osvaldo Angeli, President of the Provincial Government of Massa; Roberto Pucci, Mayor of Massa; and Andrea Zanetti, Deputy Mayor of Carrara.

Discussions addressed the values of the different professional sectors, as well as the importance of stone at the community level. “Marble already has its own shape and a long history,” read a statement regarding Natural Stone Vision. “It only needs to be reawakened.”

“We started a course the fair strongly wanted,” Armenise explained when discussing the collaboration between architects and stoneworking firms. The architect cited the need to position stone as a “brand” item in building and design.

“CarraraMarmotec bravely invested in order to give a signal, and the result is clear, rich and stimulating,” explained Luca Fois of Design Partners, who served as moderator. “Today, the fairs have to sell not only spaces and services, but also contents and relationships with a modern quality. I think we are on the right track.”

Stone displays at CarraraMarmotec included slabs and tiles as well as architectural stonework for both commercial and residential applications.

Adolfo Natalini presentation

Also of interest to the architectural community was a presentation by Adolfo Natalini, the architect-painter born in Pistoia and one of the leading figures of contemporary architecture. Natalini gave a lecture in which he explained his philosophy of design and the use of stone in his work.

Natalini, who teaches at the Architectural Faculty of the University of Florence, was honored at CarraraMarmotec for his work in natural stone in modern buildings, such as the Bank of Alzate Brianza, which was completed in the early 1980s. Speaking on buildings designed over the past 30 years in Italy and abroad, Natalini spoke how stone - particularly material from the surrounding region - can create “architecture made for the local populations.”

Natalini’s works in stone have been directly honored at CarraraMarmotec, such as the Teatro della Compagnia in Florence, Italy, which he demonstrated “great sensitivity and perfect knowledge of the potential” of stone. The architect also used Italian travertine for the Law Faculty at the University of Siena, which has been celebrated for its innovative use of material.

In addition to discussing past architecture, Natalini also spoke about the long-term considerations of stone architecture - ones that go beyond simply equipping a building with modern technology. “To think of an architecture that may be projected into the future, one must engage in a design that is rooted in a past that is at least as long as the future one wants to give to a new building,” Natalini said. “And in this, marble and stone - always in harmony with the local place, materials and features - are essential materials. [They] are the accents that make the city’s song shine. A city that is made of places and true people that need to identify even physically with the materials, not only through the ephemeral or the modern at all costs.”

In its updated format, CarraraMarmotec is looking to strengthen the bond between the stone industry and the sectors of sculpture, architecture and design.

Marble Architectural Awards

On the same day as Natalini’s presentation, CarraraMarmotec hosted the awards ceremony for the Marble Architectural Awards, which honored outstanding stone architecture in Central and South America and South Africa (May 2008 Stone World, page 108). In the Exteriors category, the First Prize award went to Casa de Meditacion in Mexico City, Mexico, designed by Gerard Pascal and Carlos Pascal. In the Interiors category, the jury declared a two-way tie for First Prize. One prize went to Atelman, Fourcade, Tapia Arquitectos of Argentina for the Museo de Arte Latino Americano in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The other went to a group of Mexican architects under the name of Zd+a (Yuri Zagorin Alazraki, Sindy Martinez Lortia, Walter Lingard and Francisco Garcia Marquez) for the Casa del Puente in Sierra Amatepec, Mexico.

The 2008 edition of CarraraMarmotec marks the final year in which the show is an annual event. The next edition of CarraraMarmotec will take place in 2010, and it will take place every other year after that.