Teruel, Spain, a World Heritage site, boasts extensive use of brick and glazed tile in the city’s architecture.

The Conference Center of Aragon, where Spanish architects Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano used 120,000 triangular ceramic tiles to cover the roof.

In early February of this year, I embarked on the “Reign in Spain” tour which included the cities of Zaragoza, Teruel and finally Valencia, where Cevisama’s annual exhibition and conference takes place.

Our group, comprised of editors, bloggers, architects and designers, were to be shown the rich mix of architecture, design and culture that demonstrated the country’s deep influence in both traditional and modern design. My expectations were not only met, but were exceeded by the generosity, hospitality and friendliness of our caretakers, hosts, tour guides, and the multitude of tile manufacturers we met along the eight-day trip.

The educational aspect of this trip was also one that couldn’t be missed. Patti and Ryan Fasan, Professional Attention to Tile Installations (P.A.T.T.I.), led several sessions about how to specify and design with tile. Their experience and insight of the ceramic tile industry is immeasurable.

Often, our curiosity would allow one of us to wander to examine in length at something that caught our eye. Our hosts, Amanda Eden (White Good & Co., representing Tile of Spain), the Trade Commission of Spain’s Mario F. Buisan (trade commissioner) and Silvia Valcarcel Lopez, and Association of Ceramic Tile Manufacturers of Spain (ASCER) promotions director David Portales were continually tested on their patience – yet they always did it with a smile.

The tour of Zaragoza, the first city on our itinerary, included visits to the Spanish Pavilion at the Zaragoza International Expo and the Congress house. While at the Spanish Pavilion, we had an exclusive tour of the building and its “ceramic tile forest” exterior comprised of 750 poplar tree-like terracotta pillars, manufactured by Ceramica Decorativa. The building and its various ecological components were created in collaboration with the Spanish Center for Renewable Energy and Navarrese architect Patxi Mangado.

At the Keraben manufacturing facility, an employee performs quality assurance procedures.

Following the Spanish Pavilion tour, we were guided to the Conference Center of Aragon where Spanish architects Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano used 120,000 triangular ceramic tiles to cover the roof. The tiles, assembled in 6’ x 28’ sheets in order to make the roof construction easier, feature a vitreous finish. Depending on the time of the day, the roof changes from a matte to a shine.

Further, validity of ceramic tile’s centuries-long longevity and integral use as construction material was solidified with our visit to Teruel (a World Heritage city designated by UNESCO). As a center for Mudejar art, a style influenced by Islamic tradition and more contemporary European architectural styles, the fortress-like city is characterized by extensive use of brick and glazed tiles within its architecture.

Members of the “Reign in Spain” group speak with a Grespania representative. From left are architects Bob Borson and Scott D.Q. Knudson, with Ryan and Patti Fasan, P.A.T.T.I., on the right.

With our tour of various Spanish cities over, we made our way towards Valencia to experience a private visit of the Keraben manufacturing facility and Cevisama, the annual international ceramics, natural stone and bathroom equipment fair.

While on the Keraben tour, our host Javier Plasencia (U.S. area manager for Keraben Grupo S.A.) and several members of the company’s quality assurance, and R & D team members were on hand to demonstrate the various stages and processes in producing ceramic tile products.

For myself, and several others in our group who had never attended Cevisama, the trips through Zaragoza and Teruel gave us a small glimpse of what to expect at the show, or so we thought. From locally sourced terracotta tiles by Ceramica Elias to Pamesa’s slate look with Burma, Natucer’s Filter Floors with its raised, slotted system, Apavisa’s hexagon-shaped ventilated façade system, Roca’s Green City collection featuring 80% recycled content, Grespania’s CoverLam (3.5mm) that measures 1000x3000mm (3ftx10ft), Sierragres’ photovoltaic and façade system to Ecom4Tile from Ceracasa with its energy-saving, antibacterial collection - each of the hundreds of Cevisama exhibitors presented the opportunity of discovery. Collectively, our group hoped to see many of the products presented to us during Cevisama used on American projects.

Following our return, I spoke with a few of our group’s architects and designers and asked them about their prior experiences with Spanish tile, how their specifications/recommendations may have changed as a result of the trip, and what they learned from the trip, as a whole.

The Architects and Designers: What They Had to Say

Principal Architect, atelier lira luis, llc
“Prior to the Reign In Spain event, I had specified tile in various building typologies. The decision to specify was not driven where the tile was manufactured but rather more on how it meets the design intent. I’ve used it extensively in a museum project in Phoenix, K-12 school buildings, commercial office spaces, and retail spaces.

After the Reign In Spain event, and after seeing Cevisama and what is available out there, I quickly realized the enormous amount of building tile that allow for an architect to express design elements. I also learned of the numerous applications for tile within a building, which were traditionally not available. (For example, the Bionic tile and the slim tiles). These allow for more flexibility in design.

The knowledge I have about different tile applications and products is expanded through the Cevisama experience. Whether or not it will immediately be incorporated in architectural projects is another issue. While I may be able to recommend a specific building product to the building owner, it is still subject to other factors like cost, maintenance, durability and aesthetics, to be able to use it in the project.

Finally, I think it is important for architects and designers to be aware of advancements in several building products. While tile may be one of the oldest building materials in history, it has certainly evolved into something more revolutionary than when it was first discovered. Knowing about these developments help trigger creative realizations that would prove meaningful.”

Andie Day, Interior Designer
Principal, Andie Day LLC
“Prior to the trip, I hadn’t specified Spanish tile. Following the trip, my specifications/recommends have definitely increased for tile? For me, it’s a case of ‘I didn’t know what I didn’t know.’ For example, I’ve been told by tile installers that large format tile installed on the floor will ‘always’ crack and that I was performing a disservice by specifying. I now have a greater comfort level in specifying.

Also, I did learn more about the advances/digital mastery of ceramic tile products through the education series provided. I’ve met with four clients requiring tile for projects since I returned from Spain and I’m able to identify and discriminate well made ceramic tile vs. ruling it out all together for certain applications.

I realize that not everyone has the opportunity to travel to Spain as our fortunate group did. With that in mind I would suggest making an appointment to speak with a trusted sales representative in showrooms to learn more about advances made in technology, quality and innovation. Another option would be to contact Professional Attention to Tile Installations (P.A.T.T.I.) as they are an invaluable resource for the latest trends, etc. in the industry.”

Scott D.Q. Knudson, AIA, LEED AP
Vice President, Wiencek + Associates
“In the past, I had included a few, but not too many, Spanish brands in typical settings such as the bath floor, a tub surround, an elevator lobby floor, and building lobby floor. As a result of the “Reign In Spain” tour, I’m now striving for the ever-larger format, especially on tub walls, especially the 1m x 3m product.

Also since Spain, I’ve called for tile on exterior concrete balconies in applications where we had to raise the balcony floor slightly for wheelchair accessibility - using large-format tiles on a thick-set exterior bed. We have another project where we will clad a high-rise with a rainscreen, and now will add tile to the repertoire for consideration.

Until Cevisama, I personally didn’t know about the 3.5mm products (double-roller-press). It isn’t something to be afraid of in terms of strength, and in fact, it’s more supple and flexible, and thus probably slightly less susceptible to breakage following installation. And, it can be installed on top of existing tiles, saving money in a limited-scope renovation project.”

I believe Andie Day summed up the experience of “Reign In Spain” the best by saying “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

Cevisama 2012 will be held February 7-10 in Valencia, Spain. For more information, visitcevisama.feriavalencia.com.

Sidebar: Cevisama & Trends

By Ryan Fasan, Professional Attention to Tile Installations (P.A.T.T.I.), Ceramic Tile & Stone Consultant & Trainer

Cevisama has always been an event fuelled by unbridled creativity. Each year’s novelties raise the bar for ceramic tile and 2011 was no different. This innovative spirit, always searching for creative solutions, is a defining paradigm of the Spanish tile industry. It’s inspiring to witness this constant pushing of the envelope, never being satisfied with what worked before- Always questing for ways to make product with more added value.

Due to the economic downturn, manufacturers are constantly looking for new markets to utilize ceramic tile, growing the proverbial pie rather than simply striving for a larger slice. Thin porcelains are probably the most prolific example of this for 2011. This thin material (between 3-6mm depending on the production method) essentially halves the embodied energy of porcelain- One of the biggest critiques green design programs have with ceramics. This thinner tile is finding applications in so many areas outside of traditional floor and wall installations. Furniture and cabinetry are taking advantage of thin porcelain veneers to offer a durable, sanitary surface that is easy to clean; Decorative screens and drop-ceiling treatments that are lightweight and still offer all the benefits of porcelain including being unaffected by UV light; self adhesive programs create cost-effective installation for commercial walls and easy tile-over-tile solutions for DIY’ers. The list of possibilities goes on and on.

Many of the new products this year are centered on rational environmental solutions. Meaning this new product doesn’t necessarily strive to fit within the current frame work of green design mandates but rather, offers truly sustainable life-long solutions. By pairing ceramic tile’s inherent qualities; durability, thermal mass, ease of maintenance and hygienic nature with emerging technology, the industry is creating unique design materials that offer a lasting impact for generations to come. Many manufacturers are bolstering their closed-loop manufacturing by purchasing pre and post-consumer waste to supplement their own reclamation efforts, creating tile programs that contain up to 90% recycled content.

Advances in manufacturing technology are what create the possibility for these new innovative product offerings. As new processes emerge, production designers and engineers are able to realize greater technical and aesthetic potential as they learn to use the full capabilities of their new machinery. The advent of digital ink-jet glazing allows for nearly limitless decoration potential thanks to DOD (drop on demand) glaze delivery and digital image files to create almost infinite variation. After a decade of working with this technology the industry has really hit its stride, producing reproductions that not only mimic the visual representation of stone or wood perfectly but are realistic in a tactile sense as well. Since there is no longer a need for screens to touch the surface of the tile when applying glazes, the amount of texture in this year’s collections is staggering.

Texture has become an essential part of 21st century fashion and ceramic tile is not being left behind, mostly thanks to digital glazing once again. Everywhere the eye could see at Cevisama showed ceramic collections with multiple textures and finishes to create dynamic spaces. The use of contrasting textures in a space creates an environment where light and shadow imparts subtle variation of tone and shade as unique as the person viewing it.

Ceramic tile is undergoing a new renaissance where possibilities are endless and limited only by our imaginations. Cevisama is the embodiment of this creative spirit and rebirth of the industry. Anyone in the design field should make the pilgrimage to Valencia in February at least once to be inspired by the limitless possibilities.