When it came to the design of its own headquarters in Vedelago, Italy, Lapitec S.p.A., a producer of large, full-bodied, sintered stone slabs, turned to its own product to create a modern corporate design. The 195,000-square-foot building has become a technical and aesthetic expression of the Lapitec brand.
The design of the new building, which was the creation of Italian architects Fabrizio Bettiol and Francesco Pascali, included the exterior and internal facades, walls, floors, doors, bathrooms, ceilings and tables. Additionally, the material was also employed for exterior applications, such as fences, a sliding gate, company logo, garden paving and outdoor benches. The exterior of the headquarters has basically been designed to serve as the company’s new business card.
“The objective was to build a building using the widest range and types of Lapitec applications,” said Pascali, a self-employed architect, who worked on the design along with Bettiol, who was part of Bi Pro s.n.c., an architectural firm based in Resana, Treviso, Italy, and who unfortunately passed away before the culmination of the project. “This required a very complex study of the project because many applications were implemented for the very first time.”
Lapitec S.p.A. Headquarters
Architects/Designers: Fabrizio Bettiol (Bi Pro s.n.c., Resana, Treviso, Italy); Francesco Pascali
Material Supplier: Lapitec S.p.A., Vedelago, Italy
Installers: Antonello Finiture S.r.l., Castelfranco Veneto, Veneto, Italy (exterior); Linea Pavimenti S.r.l., Bassano del Grappa, Veneto, Italy (interior)
Installation Products: Mapei, Deerfield Beach, FL; Dow Corning, Midland, MI; KEIL, Naples, FL
The Lapitec slabs were given a variety of finishes and colors to create a more contemporary abstract design, which is still polished and sophisticated. The front of the building, which is clothed in two contrasting colors, is characterized by a geometric pattern and open frames that are broken up in certain areas by oblique lines, and lighter slabs that glow at night — in order to provide a dynamic optical effect. “We used the Lead Gray (“Grigio Piombo”) with a Vesuvio finish for the facade, and the Ivory (“Avorio”) with a Vesuvio finish was used for the relief elements on the facade,” said Pascali.
The surrounding area, where Lapitec was used for additional exterior features such as the benches, sliding gate and company logo, also complements the geometric design. The fences, sliding gate and garden paving are fabricated from “Grigio Cemento,” while the company logo, which is imprinted on the sliding gate, incorporates a mix of both “Grigio Piombo” and “Avorio.” “Avorio” was also selected for two accompanying benches, and all of the architectural elements were given a satin finish.
Inside, three finishes were chosen for all applications: Lux for the flooring, Vesuvio for the vertical surfaces and Satin for the tables and horizontal surfaces. Lux, a finish with an intrinsic brightness that reflects external light, creates a mirror-like effect. The Vesuvio finish, on the other hand, has a textured surface that mimics flamed brushed granite, and is ideal for the walls since its outer surface creates interesting vibrations when the light comes into contact with it, making it possible to achieve an unpredictable and very natural color effect. The Satin finish ensured the right reflection for all of the workstations. “Avorio” was chosen for all interior applications, and is a slightly different shade of white on each of the surfaces because of the way light reflects off of each type of finish, according to Pascali.
In total, approximately 27,000 square feet of the material was utilized throughout Lapitec’s headquarters. The slabs measured 132 ½ x 59 inches, and were used in three thicknesses — 12, 20 and 30 mm.
“The building was intended to become a concrete demonstration of the enormous application potential of the material,” said Pascali. “However, at the same time, Lapitec is the only material capable of supporting such different and innovative applications.”
Aside from its grandiose size and porcelain-like properties, Lapitec is unique in that it’s non porous, and therefore, resistant to staining, mold and bacteria. It’s also a product that’s completely weatherproof, meaning it can withstand the test of time. It’s also resistant to acids, alkalis, deep abrasions, fire, frost and UV rays.
When designing Lapitec S.p.A.’s headquarters, the architects ran into one challenge with the slabs, mainly due to their inexperience using them. However, with a little ingenuity, they figured out a way to work around the issue and solve their temporary problem. “The most significant challenge was applying the Lapitec slabs, in their entirety, to the ceilings,” said Pascali. “In fact, an absolutely innovative anchoring system, with anchors immersed in the back of the slab and thus invisible to the sight, was used to achieve this. Such technology was typically exclusively applicable to small-sized panels up until now. Today, however, we can apply it to large slabs, such as Lapitec’s.”
From the beginning of the design phase to the building’s completion, the entire project took about two years. “Since the building was a sort of experiment, where entirely new applications were implemented, it was a very important project we were able to achieve in a rather quick manner,” said Pascali.
Though the architects normally spend a lot of time onsite supervising project installations, this was a rather unusual job, given its parameters. “For this type of project, our onsite presence was limited because a lot of work had already been done in the design and engineering phases concerning the elements that had to be installed,” said Pascali. “In fact, a meticulous preparation alone allowed us to complete the work successfully.”
Since this installation was a rather unique one, two companies were enlisted — one to handle the exterior applications and one to handle the interior applications. The exterior aspects were completed by Antonello Finiture S.r.l. in Castelfranco Veneto, Veneto, Italy; and the interior parts were completed by Linea Pavimenti S.r.l. in Bassano del Grappa, Veneto, Italy. Altogether, the installations took about 10 months and required between four to 10 installers at any given time.
“Both installations were completed in about 10 months considering the weather was not very favorable,” said Pascali. “It was a very rainy year, and the external applications were often postponed from week to week.”
To complete the installation, the installers primarily used Mapei products for the indoor and outdoor facade and flooring applications, along with Dow Corning structural silicon for the curtain wall application and Keil anchors for the special ventilated facade they created, which exhibited the unique capabilities of Lapitec.
“Thanks to its characteristics, Lapitec is suitable for many application techniques — from curtain walls to ventilated facades and all the way up to the floor systems,” Pascali explained. “Various systems were used to implement the headquarters project; the idea to only use Lapitec for any type of existing surface required the use of different application techniques. For example, two types of very interesting and innovative installations were used for the front side of the building. The first concerns the curtain wall and was implemented using an upright system generally used to apply glass. For the ventilated facade, however, we came up with a special anchoring system; dowels were placed on the back of the slabs to anchor them to the steel structure.”
Aside from maneuvering and installing the massive slabs on Lapitec’s headquarters, one of the other challenges presented during the installation involved the exterior facade, according to Pascali. “The geometric patterns found over the external facade were another complex element that required much attention during the design and engineering phase of the project,” he said.
Despite the few complications the project presented, the end result is a building that speaks of the versatility of Lapitec, whose style and architectural choices express the highest degree of all that can be achieved with this full-bodied sintered stone. “Since it was an experimental and innovative project that had never been implemented before, there were a lot of expectations, but all were fully met once the entire building was completed,” said Pascali.