I recently had the opportunity to join a group of architects on a trip to Portugal where we had the chance to visit several marble and limestone quarries as well as some stone processing plants. The trip was organized by the Portuguese stone association Assimagra and Veronafiere Marmomacc Stone Academy. The course, "Designing with Natural Stone Portugal 2014," was the first initiative of its kind developed in Portugal and directed to foreign architects in the U.S., Canada, UK, Brazil and South Africa. The architects were able to earn 21 educational credits approved by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Designing with Natural Stone Portugal

"Designing with Natural Stone Portugal 2014" took place from June 1 to 5, 2014 and was organized by the Portuguese stone association Assimagra and Veronafiere Marmomacc Stone Academy.

While this was the first course of its kind in Portugal, the "Designing with Natural Stone" course is now in its 16th year. Developed as a unique combination of classroom lectures and guided visits to quarries and processing facilities, it is held annually in conjunction with Marmomacc, the large international stone exhibition, which takes place in Verona, Italy, each year. Contemporary Stone & Tile Design and Stone World, a sister publication, is a sponsor of the course.

Many of the architects that participated in the Portugal trip had also completed the course in Verona. Once talking with them, it became obvious that they truly are interested in learning more about stone. One architect I met several years ago in Verona and then again in Portugal, was telling me that he is now working with one of the Italian companies that the group visited the year he took part in the course. I think it is great to see that this architect took advantage of the opportunities the course opened up for him and has now built a relationship with an Italian stone company.

Additionally, other architects expressed interest in the materials that they were seeing during our week-long excursion. The intention of the course is to expose architects to new materials and hope that they consider them when designing their next project.

Taking part in a program such as "Designing with Natural Stone" is a great way to get in the field and learn about new materials, as well as new stone processing techniques. I have to say that the course is impressive in how well it is organized and the amazing things they arrange for the group to see. More than 250 U.S. architects have participated in previous editions of the course.

The 16th edition of Marmomacc Stone Academy's "Designing with Natural Stone" will run from September 22 to 27, 2014 in Verona, Italy, in conjunction with Marmomacc. The 2014 edition will include visits to a nearby Botticino quarry and stone processing plant, an architectural tour of Verona, case studies on the Canadian Museum of Human Rights and other projects in stone, and sessions on sustainable stone design and stone cladding as well as new finishing technologies. Scholarship applications for this year's course will be accepted until July 15, 2014, so if you are interested, e-mail Sebastiano Brancoli at: info@sbdcllc.com.