With the intention of promoting sustainability and green design -- particularly as it pertains to ceramic tile -- Tile of Spain hosted "Material Matters -- Sustaining the Urban Environment with Natural Material" on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at The Times Center  in New York City. The event showcased several projects that illustrated how ceramic tile was a quality choice for each application and detailed reasons why it contributed to an overall sustainable design.

The evening kicked off with a presentation by Charles Kramer of the New York-based firm Beyer Blinder Belle about the restoration of the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Kramer, along with colleague Richard Southwick, Director of Preservation at Beyer Blinder Belle, gave an in-depth case study of how the famous Eero Saarinen building -- with its free-flowing curves and inventive use of tile -- was restored.

For almost 50 years, the tile work that clad the majority of the airport terminal had held up to the wear and tear brought on by the thousands of visitors that passed through the building each day, and the durability of the tile was a testament to its sustainability.

"The expressive form of the building is very distinctive," explained Kramer, adding that the famous building opened in 1962. "Once you see it, you will never forget it. Almost every [original] surface, except the ceiling and curtain wall, was a tile feature."

The architect explained that the team from Beyer Blinder Belle dedicated time to studying the original design before beginning the restoration work. "We did a lot of research," he said. "We looked at old drawings. Tile was in the design from the very beginning."

The presentation went on to explain how a strong effort was made to match the existing tile and sustain Saarinen's design for the TWA Terminal.

Additionally, Spanish architect Ángela García de Paredes, Principal of Paredes Pedrosa Architects in Madrid, Spain, spoke on the use of high-performance, durable materials that add character to urban environments while also providing life-cycle benefits. The architect discussed the importance of using materials that reflect the context of local environments and offer sustainable solutions.

The Spanish architect presented several of her recent projects, including the Peñiscola Congress Centre in Spain. "In architecture, material isn't something that you think about afterwards," she said. "In Mediterranean architecture, ceramic tile plays a very important part to building an open air room."

When working on the Peñiscola Congress Centre, García de Paredes explained that they contacted ASCER, the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers' Assocation, to consult on the properties of ceramic tile and to make sure it was suited for the application. "In this case, we wanted to investigate because we thought tile was much more than for floors and walls," said the architect. "We were sure ceramic would be a good choice."

The Spanish architect spoke on the durable and sustainable properties of tile and how it was the right choice for the project because it could withstand the local climate.

Following the formal presentations, a panel discussion led by Susan S. Szenazy, Editor-in-Chief of Metropolis Magazine, was held to explore the use of natural materials in our cities. The speakers were joined by Ceramic Tile Consultant Patti Fasan and Ignacio Fernandez Solla, architect and leader of the facade team at the Spanish firm Arup.

The program was approved for CEU credits.

After the presentations and panel discussion, guests were able to peruse displays of new products from Tile of Spain branded manufacturers Azulev, Ceramica Elias, Inalco, Keraben, Natucer, Pamesa, Porcelanosa, Roca and Saloni, while sampling Spanish wine and tapas. Many of these tile manufacturers are now offering tile products made of recycled content as well as using "green" practices in their production processes -- further emphasizing how ceramic tile makes for good sustainable design.