Every year at Coverings – the premier tile and stone show in the U.S. – Ceramics of Italy hosts thousands of guests in a bustling 3,000 square foot exhibit in the heart of the Italian Pavilion. Since 1991, prominent architecture studios – from Bernard Tschumi and Arquitectonica to Aldo Rossi and Gaetano Pesce – have created a unique space that does not only inspire but also serves the very functional purposes of reception, info point, cafe and trattoria.
In a new twist this year, the Ceramics of Italy booth was transformed into a sculptural landscape of tile-cladded typography, as envisioned by e+i studio – a hot young architecture firm based in NYC led by husband and wife team Eva Perez de Vega and Ian Gordon – during Coverings in Orlando, Florida from April 17-20, 2012.
Based on the idea of an Italian piazza, Piazza Ceramica featured a large open gathering space for attendees to gather and dine on the show floor. Utilizing the edges of the pavilion to channel the flow of circulation in the booth, e+i created two tile-clad mounds in a gradient of colors that allowed for additional seating on one side and occupiable programming space on the other. It was constructed using a simple system of fabrication, precise digitally generated components and a cantilevered gridshell system to support the tile mounds.
From the floors and walls to the steps and countertops, nearly every surface in the booth was wrapped in Italian tile from manufactures including Atlas Concorde, Caesar Ceramiche, Emilceramica, Fioranese, Floorgres, Ceramiche Lea and Marazzi. The porcelain floor tiles, set on a raised flooring system, featured impressive water-jet cutting by Stratos to achieve a colorful topography-inspired floor. Grout, nosing and cleaning products were also donated by Mapei, Profilpas and Fila Industria Chimica.
Not only is Piazza Ceramica a beautiful example of exhibit design, it also has an interesting process story. Since the booth needed to have re-usable components, e+i designed it to be flat packed so it can be assembled and disassembled onsite like a 3D puzzle with the possibility of rebuilding the mounds into different piazza-like configurations.
With its multitude of configuration possibilities, its ingenious use of limited space, its interaction with visitors, and its overall aesthetic appeal and creativity, Piazza Ceramica represents a revolution in the architecture of event and gathering spaces. It seamlessly blends the classicism of the historic Italian piazza with modern techniques and materials of today to create an astounding piece of art and exhibit design.
+ Designer: e+i studio