Last fall, I had the opportunity to accompany a group of architects from across the globe at an American Institute of Architects continuing education program in Verona, Italy. Held in conjunction with the Marmomacc trade/design fair, the event gives architects a first-hand look at the stone-production process -- from quarrying to fabrication to installation. This included a visit to a state-of-the-art stoneworking plant run by Ghirardi Marmi near Brescia, Italy, which was equipped with a range of the latest technology.
Although I have been at large-scale stoneworking plants around the world, it is somewhat rare that I get the opportunity to tour these facilities in the company of established architects. It was particularly interesting to me to hear the ideas that these design professionals shared with one another as they examined the various machines in use at the plant. Equipment on hand included Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) saws and routers as well as automated shaping machines and polishers, and the architects discussed specific design elements that could be achieved by using the various pieces of equipment. The imagination of these architects was also piqued as they viewed the finished pieces being prepared for shipment.
Also of note, Ghirardi Marmi's plant displayed a mock-up of an intricate stone panel design that was processed for renowned architect Mario Botta. The design professionals in attendance were so interested in the piece that they could not resist walking up to it to get a "feel" for the stonework, and they examined it from every angle. As a journalist, it made it tough to get a clean picture of the mock-up (I finally succeed, and the photo accompanies this article on the right), but the
enthusiasm of these architects was quite infectious.
As I chatted with these architects -- many of whom were quite accomplished -- it became clear that many of them had never seen a stoneworking plant such as the one we toured that day in Italy, and I wondered if their experience would result in an expansion of their stone usage. My guess is that it will on some level.
In any case, for those design professionals who do not have the opportunity to tour such facilities, it might still be interesting to keep abreast of what is possible in terms of stoneworking. At www.stoneworld.com read up on some of these large-scale stoneworking plants. A simple search on our site using the word "Verona" should give you plenty of options to "tour" the Italian stoneworking sector. The only thing missing will be the wine.