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Behind the "Piazza Ceramica"

June 26, 2012

Every year at Coverings, the annual tile and stone show, 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 -- an architecture firm based in New York City led by husband-and-wife team Eva Perez de Vega and Ian Gordon -- during Coverings, which was held in Orlando, FL, from April 17 to 20, 2012.

Based on the idea of an Italian piazza, "PiazzaCeramica" 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 open 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 manufacturers, 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. Because 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 three-dimensional 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, according to Ceramics of Italy. 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.

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