Scheduled for September 30 through October 3, 2015, this year’s edition of Marmomacc will celebrate the international stone exhibition’s 50th anniversary. Held annually at Veronafiere in Verona, Italy, the show has an interesting history and has grown tremendously since its conception. On its 50th anniversary, Marmomacc, in collaboration with the Ministry for Economic Development, the Italian Trade Agency and Confindustria Marmomacchine, will implement a major campaign supporting “Made in Italy” in the natural stone sector, which will be developed through a number of central themes, including: “The Italian Stone Theatre,” a hall entirely dedicated to natural stone technologies and experimentation; “Made in Italy;” significant and qualified incoming activities focusing on buyers and architects from all over the world; the “International Stone Summit,” and the first international summit involving the main natural stone associations worldwide.

The show always draws a global market, and last year’s results were extremely positive. The 2014 edition attracted more than 65,000 visitors — a 15% increase over 2013. Attendees traveled from 145 countries, which was two more than the previous year. Marmomacc 2014 also included 1,502 exhibitors from 58 countries.

Among the 10 leading countries who visited Marmomacc, India was in first place, followed by Germany, Turkey, Spain, France, China, the U.S., Brazil, Russia and Egypt. Additionally, there was also significant attendance from the United Kingdom, Iran, South Korea, Portugal and Poland.

“The 2014 edition marked a critical step for Marmomacc, in terms of both the international development of the sector and the reciprocal promotion agreement with Expo 2015,” said Ettore Riello, president of Veronafiere. “It is equal proof that trade shows are a strategic asset in Italy’s industrial policy and highlights Veronafiere’s leading role in Italy and abroad.”

A history of a tradition

It is only appropriate that the setting for Marmomacc is Verona, Italy — a city with historic architecture, culture and spectacular views. Verona and the surrounding areas, such as Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella, are rich in stone production — from the quarries to the stone processing plants.

Rosso di Verona, Biancone and Nembro Rosato marble are three of the local stone materials in the area. Through local traditions and craftsmanship, which has been evident since the fifth century B.C., these stones have contributed to works of art in Verona, Venice and Parma that are still today the emblems of these cities and visited by scholars of art and tourists from all over the world. Among the prevalent landmarks are the Arena, the Cathedral, San Zeno, Sant’Anastasia, the Scaliger Arches, the Loggia of Fra’ Giocondo, the Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica and the Certosa of Parma. The building of these structures also flourished with the constitution developed in 1319 of the Ancient Free Corporation of Stone Arts (the Guild representing stone masons, quarrymen, artists, masters in working stone from quarries in the Lessinia, Valpolicella and Valpantena areas).

In the second half of the 19th century, such growth in trade encouraged Sant’Ambrogio Town Council to send 24 samples of marble — detailing several varieties and processing techniques — along with an analytical price list in Italian and French to the Universal Exposition in Paris, France. In the same year, Count Paolo Brenzoni, with the cooperation and encouragement of Archpriest Don Lorenzo Bernardi, founded at his own expense, the School for Stone Masons, which is still active today in Sant’Ambrogio and named after him. The turn-of-the-century was also the time of emigration by marble artisans to other countries in Europe and overseas until two cooperatives — “Giovanni Piatti” and the “Unione Marmisti di Valpolicella” — were founded in Sant’Ambrogio in the first decade of 1900, which were to be the focus of development in the Veronese natural stone sector until the end of World War II. In the 1930s, specifically in 1935 and 1937 during the fascist era, the first trade exhibitions came about with two editions of the “Marble Show.”

The birth of a stone show

The post-war period saw the development of enterprise that promoted and embraced new experiences and began to turn Sant’Ambrogio, Lugo, Grezzana, Caprino and Lessinia into one of the main Italian natural stone districts. Many small- and medium-sized companies that were capable of interpreting the new requirements associated with post-war reconstruction began creating a marble processing model not only in terms of craftsmanship, but also on an industrial scale. This was due to new techniques and materials, which when applied in various ways, proved capable of turning marble into a modern material that was no longer linked only with monuments and works of art.

It was during this period that politics also joined the fray. Realizing the fledgling marble sector’s need to expand and develop its activities, not only in terms of quarrying and processing, but also the production of machinery, technologies and accessories, representatives of local institutions encouraged the start of a trade fair in Sant’Ambrogio. The first one was held in 1960, featuring 40 stone processing companies and 70 quarries.

The Sant’Ambrogio Town Council, Verona Chamber of Commerce, Verona City Council, the Province of Verona and other institutions, associations of entrepreneurs and mountain communities also founded the “Ente Marmi Veronese,” which was intended to organize and promote the second edition of the then biennial trade show. It was also decided that the time was ripe to create another event, the Marble and Machinery Exhibition. The first edition was held September 24 to October 1, 1961 in Sant’Ambrogio and was inaugurated by the Hon. Biggi, under the Secretary of State representing the government, in the presence of Senator Giuseppe Trabucchi, Minister of Finance.

The debut show, as recalled by Carlo Montani (one of the most authoritative Italian experts in the field and author of the famous “Stone and Marble in the World Report”), was supported by a touring exhibition that ensured impressive impact even in terms of image. The “marble charter,” comprising two sections, respectively, dedicated to 165 samples of highly-prized Italian natural stones and 90 panels with an analytical illustration of the respective production centers, was hosted in various national and international venues.

In the years to follow, the “charter” was involved in four Italian events — held in Vicenza, Naples, and twice in Sant’Ambrogio — and as many as seven other countries, including Hamburg and Munich, Germany; London and Manchester, Great Britain; Los Angeles and New York in the U.S.; Copenhagen, Denmark; Utrecht, the Netherlands; Gothenburg, Sweden; and Montreal, Canada. In conjunction with the trip to Canada, the “charter” was also promoted by a special supplement published by financial newspaper, Il Sole-24 Ore, dedicated to stone materials and prospects for development in the sector. The 24-page folio insert, which was drafted by the leading natural stone association, gave life to unsurpassed innovation and summed up the detailed investigation into production, technical and commercial aspects in the sector without overlooking legislative and promotional questions.

The 1961 show was followed by two other highly-successful biennial editions in 1963 and 1965.

The 1965 edition saw institutions and entrepreneurs agree to an annual schedule given the enthusiasm over results that prompted FIMCEE – the European Marble and Granite Federation to give its full endorsement to the exhibition that thereafter became the International Marble and Machinery Exhibition. This expansion continued from 1966 to 1977, to the extent that the site of the trade fair was obliged to expand to meet growing requests for attendance from companies. These editions immediately highlighted the international character of exhibitors and visitors, as well as rewarding business and trade, not to mention the topics discussed by conventions, cultural exhibitions and competitions for architects and designers.

The year 1977 welcomed the 15th edition of the International Marble and Machinery Exhibition, which was held from September 10 to 18, and it attracted more than 550 exhibitors, including 117 from 14 countries. The exhibition center was entirely occupied and attendees arrived from all over the world, including China.

With the growth and success of the stone exhibition, the Sant’Ambrogio Town Council realized that the time had come for a more managerial approach. Until this time, the organizing committee had only comprised volunteers. As a result, in 1978, the council decided to entrust the management of the trade fair as of the following year to Veronafiere, while retaining the venue in Sant’Ambrogio itself.

The trade fair sector had to become more professional in order to meet the growing needs of a business system transformed from its pioneering stage into a modern industrial sector. As early as 1981, the 19th Marmomacc-Marmomacchine — thanks to intense promotion on international markets implemented by Veronafiere with ICE-Foreign Trade Institute, the Ministry for Foreign Trade and Alitalia — attracted exhibitors from 14 countries and visitors from 77.

In 1987 Veronafiere organized and promoted the first edition of the International Stone Architecture Award to focus worldwide attention on projects by architects and designers who emphasize natural stone in their work. At this point, the show was almost 30 years in the running, and it had given awards to some of the most important interpreters of modern architecture, and helped improve awareness among the international community of professionals in project and interior design of the special features of stone materials.

At the same time, the exhibition expanded with every edition, and since 1992, has been held in the Verona Exhibition Center (Veronafiere). Between 1992 and 2001, Marmomacc expanded from just over 25,000 net square meters of exhibition space with exhibitors from 32 countries to a net area of 60,000 square meters and exhibitors from 52 countries.

Beginning in 2002, trade fairs were transformed into networks that remained connected 365 days a year with their reference market – and in the case of Marmomacc, with exhibitors, visitors, architects, engineers, designers, interior designers, geologists, journalists, opinion leaders, university professors and students from over 145 countries, thereby creating a constant trading platform on the most important or more promising markets, as well as continuous training with universities where the designers of the future study.

The Stone Academy

The Stone Academy is an association created by Marmomacc to bring together universities, professionals and institutions involved in the training, research and academic-professional promotion activities in architecture based on the use of stone. During the 2014 edition of the Venice Architecture Biennial, which was directed by Rem Koolhaas, the Stone Academy was recognized as an accredited structure for the “Biennial Session.”

The Stone Academy was founded in 2005 with the development of the world’s first course in contemporary design with stone — promoted by Marmomacc and implemented by the Mantua centre of Milan Polytechnic University. In just six years, the number of universities that collaborated with Marmomacc to set up new courses and research programs has significantly expanded, with an extremely varied range of specializations. By 2011, the need for an overall name was increasingly evident and “Stone Academy” thereby took the definition of “education and training” to create and fully represent the broad network of universities, professors, researchers, scholars and stakeholders in the field of stone architecture.

Currently, more than 20 institutes and universities are members, and as of this year, the program includes new activities in collaboration with the School of Architecture in Ljubljana. Marmomacc in recent years has played an active and vital role in the promotion and dissemination of what universities are achieving in terms of teaching, research and experiments involving stone architecture, with a constantly expanding presence on the national and international scene.

Veronafiere-Marmomacc is also the only trade fair organizer providing specialist training and professional refresher courses for architects acknowledged by leading international associations. A provider for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) since 1998, Veronafiere/Marmomacc is also recognized as a permanent education provider by the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA), the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), RIBA and the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA).        


Forming partnerships

The first collaboration in the U.S. for Marmomacc was in 2005 with StonExpo Las Vegas — organized by the company formerly known as Hanley Wood Exhibitions and today, named Informa Exhibitions, a publisher and event organizer as well as U.S. leader in the building and construction industry. This cooperation was strengthened year after year and culminated in the co-branding agreement whereby the event today is named StonExpo Marmomacc Americas.

Furthering expanding their partnership and brand, in October 2014, Miami set the stage for TISE StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas, following the January event in Las Vegas, to provide better coverage of the East Coast in the U.S. This is the “cornerstone” of a system already proven by Veronafiere with its wine exhibition, Vinitaly, which helps develop an impressive international calendar for Marmomacc throughout the world. Marmomacc is now operative in North and South America, North Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Veronafiere do Brasil was founded in 2013, with head offices in Espirito Santo State. The annual exhibition in Vitória, Espirito Santo, Brazil is now called Vitória Stone Fair/Marmomacc Latin America. Additionally, partnerships with Qatar Stone Tech and Saudi Stone Tech promote business in the Arabian peninsula.

Veronafiere’s international operations are impressive not only in distant countries, but even in those closest to Italy and the Mediterranean, such as Egypt and Morocco — the gateways to the African continent. The debut of MS Africa and Middle East-The Marmomacc and Samoter Show fits perfectly into this context. The event takes the world of natural stone and construction equipment through the Marmomacc and Samoter brands into Egypt and African-Middle East markets.

Veronafiere has also increased its equity to acquire the majority shareholding in MedinIt Srl, a company organizing exhibitions in construction, furniture and design fields. The company, now owned by Veronafiere, promotes MedinIt EXPO in Casablanca and the Italy Area at IDF Oman, an event focused on interior design, decor and luxury furniture in the Sultanate.



Italian stone industry resumes growth on international markets

Following the consolidation of results in 2014, the first quarter of 2015 is hallmarked by a resumption in exports. This upturn is driven by the 18.6% leap in international sales for stone quarrying and processing technologies, improving turnover up to 260 million euros. A positive performance — compared to the first three months of the previous year — was also posted by exports of marble, granite and natural stone. Between unhewn and processed products, this segment posted an increase of 3.2%, thanks to 416.6 million euros of international orders.

These results emerge from the first statistical survey for 2015 into the Italian stone industry, based on Istat data, carried out by the Marmomacc Observatory.

The total of 416.6 million euros (+3.2%) recorded for stone material exports from January to March 2015 once again highlighted the added value of processed products made in Italy in terms of conquering foreign buyers, with turnover coming to 332 million euros (+3.9%). The remaining export quota was covered by unhewn blocks and stones worth 84.5 million euros (-2.6%). This is a reassuring signal for the sector, which closed 2014 effectively on a par with 2013 values (+0.2% increase on an annual basis after three years of sustained growth).

Going into more detail in regards to target markets for processed materials, the first three months of 2015 saw exports to Europe hold steady (133.9 million euros / -0.2%), Germany (31.8 million euros / +7.8%), Switzerland (19.5 million euros / -8.7%) and United Kingdom (17.2 million euros /+14.2%) where most orders originate. In contrast, exports to Eastern Europe fell back (28.1 million euros / -10.1%), although Russia went against the trend to confirm its status as the leading buyer in this area (9.6 million euros / +3.9%).

North America is still the best outlet market outside Europe, with the U.S. in front (88.4 million euros / +2.8%), followed by Canada (9.1 million euros / -7.7%), while results were slightly down in the Middle East (47.3 million euros / -3.4%), with Saudi Arabia (16.2 million euros) and the United Arab Emirates (12.4 million euros) sustaining demand. India and China, in the first quarter of 2015, are once again the main buyers of unhewn stone materials, respectively with 22.6 million euros (+31.2%) and 20.2 million euros ( -13.9%) of imports from Italy.

In the first three months of the year, total Italian imports also grew by 9.1% to 99.5 million euros: 72.9 million euros for raw materials (+5.7%) and the remaining 26.6 million euros for processed materials (+19.7%).

“Positive results in this quarter are the best preview in the run-up to the 50th anniversary edition of Marmomacc scheduled at Veronafiere from September 30 to October 3,” said Ettore Riello, the President of Veronafiere. “As can be seen from these figures, exports are vital for the development of a sector in which Marmomacc is the most important b2b and training platform for all operators. Thanks to incoming buyers from more than 140 countries, initiatives set in motion thanks to the special ‘Made in Italy’ promotion plan implemented by the Ministry of Economic Development and partnership with Confindustria Marmomacchine, we are sure that the 2015 edition of the event will help Italian companies consolidate these fine results posted at the beginning of the year as well as further enhance the internationality of their business.”

There is equally considerable optimism in the comments by the Honorary President of Confindustria Marmomacchine, Flavio Marabelli. “Overall, the entire Italian natural stone materials and machinery chain is still one of Italy’s landmark industrial sectors,” he said. “This is thanks to a value of exports that in 2014 came close to a total of 2.9 billion euros, equal to almost 75% of production, for an annual trade balance surplus of nearly 2.5 billion euros. The trends emerging in the opening months of 2015, especially in regards to the good performance by some of the most important markets for the export sector, provide useful indications about the stability of Italy’s natural stone and related technology industry, which in recent years has managed to maintain and, in terms of technology, even improve on the export levels achieved prior to the 2008 crash.”

In regards to the technology sector, which closed 2014 with a small increase (+1.7%), the first quarter of 2015 saw Italian machinery builders export machinery and equipment for the quarrying and processing stone materials worth in all around 268 million euros, an increase of 18.6% compared to the same period in 2014.

The recovery in this important segment of Made in Italy was spearheaded by non-EU markets, with the U.S. again ranking first as the outlet market for exports in this sector, with orders coming to 34 million euros (+86% compared to 2014). Second place is taken by Turkey (23 million euros /+1.8%) and third by Brazil (21.3 million euros / +88.2%). The first European market is once again Germany, ranking fourth in overall terms with 18.2 million euros of imports (+29.3%).