"Building, Dwelling, Thinking" is the theme of Cersaie's (Sept. 29-Oct. 3) extensive architecture and design program that features more than 50 speakers, including the anticipated keynote address by Renzo Piano. As in the past, Cersaie has served as the launching pad for hundreds of new tile trends, designs and options.

Architect Renzo Piano was the keynote speaker during Cersaie's Architecture Day in the Palazzo dei Congressi in Bologna. Piano's address entitled "Creating Architecture" attracted massive crowds.


Renzo Piano delivering the keynote address to standing-room only audience at Cersaie.

Day 3 (Oct. 1): "Architecture, an adventurer's profession: building is a journey of discovery"

Note:The following material has been provided by Cersaie’s press office.

The architect’s studio is a kind of atelier where people, tools and materials are attributed the same importance as ideas, because “doing is thinking.” This, in the final analysis, is what Renzo Piano sees as “Creating architecture,” the title of the conference organized at Cersaie 2009.

The event saw enormous participation of international journalists during the press conference preceding the keynote address at 11 a.m. and attracted an attendance in the Palazzo dei Congressi that exceeded all expectations. Attendance was in fact so high that the entire capacity of the Palazzo dei Congressi was not sufficient to accommodate all participants even though all the rooms in the building were used and the event was screened on closed-circuit television in the Architecture Gallery and the Press Office in the exhibition center. For reasons of safety, it was necessary to refuse admission to many members of the public. The organizers of Cersaie sincerely regretted being unable to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. A debt of gratitude is owed to the law enforcement services for their professionalism and commitment.

“Architecture is the profession of creating, and this also means taking risks,” said Aldo Colonetti in his introduction prior to the keynote address. Confindustria Ceramica Chairman Franco Manfredini noted, “This is an event of extraordinary importance for Cersaie and for the city of Bologna.” Renzo Piano’s advice for young people studying architecture is to “live, travel and observe.”

Architecture is the profession of an “adventurer,” repeated the famous Genoese architect several times, a dangerous profession for those who undertake it but one that offers the opportunity to come into contact with different worlds, people and situations. It is a profession of art and adventure on various levels: technological, humanistic – because buildings are designed and built for human beings – and the more poetic and imaginative level. When architecture responds to both practical needs and expectations and desires, it becomes something extraordinary. Because buildings not only meet technical and technological criteria, they also celebrate aspirations and desires.

Displaying images of various works carried through over the years, Piano expounded his idea of architecture, which appears to merge with his vision of life itself.

In order to “create architecture,” Piano explained, one can start out from a vision and progress to the construction, or proceed the other way round. “My father was a builder so I grew up on his building sites, and the miracle of building is something that stays with you,” Piano said. “These are my roots,” he continued, then went on to stress the importance of being able to listen. A continuous dialogue is essential, not only with the people involved in the various projects but also with other fields of art and design so as to learn from the abilities of others and from other fields of knowledge and expertise - without shutting oneself off in a self-referential vision of architecture.

For Piano, artisan skill has the same value as science. Creating architecture also means understanding that all creative effort must improve, transform and describe the world through tools and practical solutions that make the concrete realization of an idea possible. For example, creating a work from the observation of places and nature. Discovering how certain geographies and given topographies or existing materials contain within themselves are the seeds of clearly defined architectural characteristics.
“The city is the venue for exchange and creative stimuli, the place where everything happens,” Piano noted. The city is the result of various stratifications over time, each of which must lend value to the previous level. The city also expresses the idea of openness and tolerance, the same qualities that derive from Piano’s life experience. “I graduated just before 1968, a time of great yearning,” he explains. This sentiment is reflected in his idea of architecture and in works like the Beaubourg, a place that became accessible for the first time despite an open dispute with those who wanted it to be a cultural center.

With Beaubourg, the sacred and profane intermingle. The museum is transformed into a part of the city, itself a collector’s piece. Architecture is creation and art, but above all the capacity to transform the world, to create languages, starting out from contingent needs. Which today are those that derive from the awareness that “the Earth is fragile” and that it is our duty to construct buildings with this in mind. With this in mind, Piano stressed using materials that respect the environmental balance, such as ceramic. “It is a material with enormous appeal. It is ancient, it comes from the earth and returns to the earth, but above all it has characteristics of strength, durability, unlimited color potential and the capacity to reflect light, making it functionally perfect and extraordinary in various situations.” To illustrate this, Piano mentioned the skyscraper where the New York Times is headquartered, where white ceramic elements were used to make optimal use of light and the sun’s rays.

The challenge is to create buildings that are less “violent” in terms of their energy requirements and which are capable of achieving economies in the use of sources. At the same time it is essential not to lose contact with human beings and their requirements. In other words, the architect is part anthropologist, part scientist and part adventurer. As Piano repeatedly affirmed, the construction of a building is like “crossing the Far West” - dangers and unforeseen situations may lie just around the corner, but the rewards are so much greater if the final result not only creates something useful but is able to change the world.

Day Two (Sept. 30): Man and Nature: A Shared Quest for Harmony and Coexistence

The seminar entitled “Living in Nature,” explored the theme of reconciling man and nature, planning cities and spaces capable of permitting the coexistence of human constructions and the environment. The conference, linked to the exhibition “Green Street,” saw the participation of two prestigious speakers whose highly individual viewpoints contributed to the creation of a shared vision, a kind of re-appropriation of space – especially that of nature – by man.

Aldo Cibic, architect and urban planner, presented theMicrorealitiesproject, already illustrated during the 9th Biennale of Architecture in September 2004. The underlying idea of Cibic’s project is that it is possible to start out from the particular to arrive at the universal. In other words it is possible to weave many small stories into a large tapestry that is significant for human destiny and which through concrete actions is able to determine and characterize the identity of a space.

The project proposes visions that, by reorganizing potential and energies, create the opportunities for meeting, exchange and sharing that form the basis of collective living. Creativity in processes engenders stimulating realities. In particular Cibic discussed the vegetable garden city, one of the six themes explored by the exhibition Microrealities in which scale models are used to create a new idea of enjoying nature: living daily life in accordance with the rhythms of the seasons, rediscovering simple gestures, but above all seeking to live in contact with the natural passage of time and sharing experiences in common physical spaces where children can play and adults can rediscover the virtue of a simple life that enriches both body and spirit.

Stefano Boeri, architect and urban planner, talked about nature and green space, but from a different perspective – a vertical one. Given that in many European cities the degree of urbanization has reached very high levels and it is difficult to create green spaces, Boeri has explored the concept of upward, vertical development. Boeri’s project, called Vertical Forest, is a reforestation program that will be implemented in the southern area of the Isola district of Milan.

The heart of the project consists of two residential towers that will host a total of around 900 trees of height between 3 and 9 meters and plants of various kinds. The two towers will be independent in terms of energy due to the use of photovoltaic panels as well as the installation of wind energy turbines on the roof and the use of geothermal energy.

The vertical garden also offers a number of advantages: as well as creating a microclimate, it produces oxygen and moisture and absorbs carbon dioxide and fine powders, thereby reducing air pollution. The greenery also provides protection from the sun during the summer while allowing natural light to pass through in the winter.

Day Two: Green Street, an exhibition combining green spaces and ceramic tiles

Cersaie and ExpoGreen reached an agreement to create Green Street, a new exhibition, promoted by Unacoma, that pursues sustainable development through the promotion of green spaces and the use of ceramic tiles. Riccardo Rigolli of with GPR Ambiente headed the exhibit, which measures more than 4,500 square meters.

The large green space will be open to visitors to both international shows and will feature specific theme areas. Green Street consists of “Biolago” (Bio-lake), a faithful reproduction of a lake; the “Fattoria del futuro” (Farm of the future), a zero-impact structure which will also feature vegetable gardens; the “Bosco Magico” (The Magic Wood), an expression of topiary art; the “Labirinto” (Maze - project by Franco Origoni and Anna Steiner with Lorenza Perego), a ceramic maze with walls formed from hedges; the “Giardino in corso” (Garden in progress), a work in progress consisting of flowerbeds and green spaces; and “Giardini” (Gardens), a nationwide competition for landscape architects who will offer their own interpretations of green spaces through eye-catching exhibits.

The unifying elements running through the various areas are the walkways, which consist entirely of Italian ceramic tiles, and the ceramic works which during the last three years have been exhibited at the Milan Triennale during the Furniture Fair. This joint exhibition explores many closely interrelated aspects. In the field of ceramic tiles, it highlights these products’ eco-friendly qualities based on specific processes and product certifications, the physical manifestation of the institutional ceramic tile advertising campaign headlinedCeramic Tile of Italy. A Natural Beauty, and the use of ceramic tiles in outdoor areas.

The Economic Conference at the 27th Cersaie, the International Exhibition of Ceramic Tiles and Bathroom Furnishings. Featured speakers (from left) are: Roberto Nicastro, Vasco Errani, Maurizio Beretta, Adolfo Urso and Franco Manfredini.

Day One (Sept. 29): Cersaie kicks off with "Competitiveness and Credit Markets Beyond the Crisis"

More than 700 people attended the Economic Conference at the 27th Cersaie, the International Exhibition of Ceramic Tiles and Bathroom Furnishings promoted by Confindustria Ceramica and organized by Edi.Cer.spa in cooperation with BolognaFiere.

“Competitiveness and credit markets beyond the crisis” was the title of the event held today in Palazzo dei Congressi in Bologna. Following the introductory remarks given by BolognaFiere Chairman Fabio Roversi Monaco, the roundtable discussion coordinated by journalist Maurizio Beretta saw the participation of Adolfo Urso, Deputy Minister for Economic Development, Vasco Errani, President of Regione Emilia Romagna, Roberto Nicastro, Deputy CEO UniCredit Group, and Franco Manfredini, Chairman of Confindustria Ceramica.

Franco Manfredini was the first to speak, describing how the crisis that began last year hit the international property market and consequently the ceramic sector. However, the second quarter of 2009 saw a rise in sales compared to the first quarter of the year, showing that the Italian ceramic tile industry has been less severely affected by the crisis than other manufacturing sectors. “To deal with this situation it was necessary to reduce production using all available flexibility,” explained Manfredini. “Companies sought to cut their costs and restructure, making use of all the social shock-absorbers at their disposal.” In this context, Manfredini stressed the importance of the cooperation of all the social partners, an outstanding example of social cohesion in which a leading role was played by the regional counselor for production activities Duccio Campagnoli.

“The ceramic industry,” concluded Manfredini, “is highly export oriented and has always been a strong promoter of globalization, although it is also convinced that the rules must be the same for everyone. We are not afraid of countries that benefit from low labor costs provided they do not adopt commercial policies based on the application of lower prices abroad than those practiced in their own countries. Finally, I must stress the need for Italy to have an energy policy that offers companies and the public tariffs in line with those of other developed countries.”

Next to speak was the Deputy CEO of Unicredit Group Roberto Nicastro, who argued high-quality manufacturing practices must be upheld. “This is one of the worst recessions in living memory,” added Nicastro, “and in a situation of this kind all the economic players become more wary, turnovers and investments fall, and cautious credit policies reflect a greater concern for the future. Nonetheless, Italian banks have resisted the temptation to resort to so-called “creative financing,” thereby sparing Italy from the disastrous consequences that these practices have had for other countries.” “Italian banks, and Unicredit Group in particular, believe in Italian industry and the growth of Italian companies abroad and it is in our interests to support them,” concluded Nicastro. “This includes establishing a stable international presence in order to successfully tackle new markets.”

The president of Regione Emilia Romagna Vasco Errani began his talk by commenting on Cersaie’s important role for our country, then went on to thank Confindustria Ceramica Chairman Franco Manfredini for his recognition of the efforts made by the regional administration, and by counselor Duccio Campagnoli in particular, in the handling of the crisis, describing some of the decisive actions taken by Regione Emilia-Romagna together with all the social partners. “First and foremost,” he said, “we have done everything possible to avoid reducing either the production base or the level of employment. In agreement with the government, we have invested 520 million euro over the next two years in credit consortia and guarantee cooperatives to support the relationship between businesses and the credit markets. We are focusing on two points to optimize this relationship: the real evaluation of business and the ability to help and reward the small and medium sized enterprises that are the driving force of our economy,” he explained. “Our objective is to safeguard our region’s manufacturing fabric, an extraordinary heritage that in past years has reported outstanding export performances.”

Last to speak was the Deputy Minister for Economic Development Adolfo Urso, who stressed the Government’s efforts to promote greater transparency in markets with a view to achieving the much-discussed liberalization. “In this regard,” added Urso, “the deadline of 2010 has been set for the conclusion of the Doha Round, the trade negotiations aiming to lower customs duties and to eliminate protectionist practices. The Government is in favor of supporting and protecting companies in order to establish rules that are the same for everyone, particularly as regards the fight against dumping. As for energy policies, I believe it is our duty to reduce CO2 emissions and protect the environment while focusing on renewable sources and nuclear energy,” he argued. “Energy is a key element for our companies and must not become an obstacle to their competitiveness.”

The deputy minister concluded his address by praising the Italian ceramic industry for having succeeded in creating a high value-added product capable of competing at an international level while starting out from low-value raw materials. This has made it possible to create development opportunities in a number of foreign markets, combining production internationalization with the added value of exported Italian ceramic tiles.

From Tiles to Complex Articles. The Transformation of Ceramic

Today’s meeting introduced by Alfonso Panzani, Chairman of the Ceramiche Ricchetti Group, explored the current state and future prospects of the relationship between ceramic materials and architecture, between design and figurative culture, as well as the development of aesthetic tastes and the ability of technologies to respond to demand.

Orazio Lo Presti, a Florence-based trend setting expert, discussed “Cool gestures and actions” starting out from the increasing interplay between the various forms of expression. Developments in design, art and fashion have generated new needs in terms of aesthetic and technological research, he argued. As a result, the ceramic sector must evolve continuously in order to satisfy requirements of quality as well as choice of products. It is essential to rediscover authentic expression free from excessive consumerism.

Veronica Dal Buono, Researcher at the Faculty of Architecture of Ferrara, discussed the theme of “Ceramic: an expressive material that combines technology, language and communication.” Innovation transforms ceramic materials from an everyday surface covering element into a complex article, an advanced component of building systems that combines aesthetic/functional values with constantly renewed decorative aspects, material research and optimized and fully researched technological properties. Combinatorial flexibility, reproducibility and sustainable productivity, as well as the intrinsic value of the material make it both a “designed material” and a technological product that is of interest both to the market and to architectural production.

“From matter to material” was the title of the talk given by designer Glauco Gresleri. In spite of the constant development of tiles in terms of technological and stylistic innovation, architects have continued to use ceramic materials in a traditional way as finishing products such as floor and wall coverings. As in the case of cement which has evolved from a binding material to take on its own specific expressive qualities, new uses and new forms, architects now have the opportunity to launch ceramic materials towards the widest range of uses, such as new building and furnishing components.

“Ceramic: only a covering material?” was the question posed by Chiara Baglione, Architect and architecture historian. In the works of some of the key figures in twentieth century architecture – from the Catalan Modernists to the Viennese Secessionists, from Perret and Berlage through to the masters of Italian modern architecture such as Gio Ponti – ceramic has been used for highly sophisticated applications reflecting the complex relationship between decoration, ornament and values of the building.

Given the development of the sector and the consequent increase in the potential for use of ceramic, it is now useful to reflect on the expressive potential of this material through a comparison between works of contemporary architecture and historic examples in search of a “continuity” that is proving increasingly essential for authentic innovation.