Large-Format Tile in a Porcelain Atrium
Life-sized porcelain tiles from Porcelanosa, which emulate Calacatta marble, were used on the walls and ceiling of a local flat in Albacete, Spain, in conjunction with LED lighting to create a contemporary aesthetic
Positioned on the second floor of a block of a flat in Albacete, Spain is a private residence known as the Atrium House. The 2,153-square-foot home was recently renovated using large-format porcelain tiles from Porcelanosa’s XLight collection in the “Kala Nature White” design to provide a more contemporary aesthetic, while also showcasing the life-sized stone-look tiles.
Designed by local architecture firm, Torrado Arquitectura, the Atrium House is a result of an innovative design solution, which showcases suspended tiles on the ceiling and walls that are highlighted with strips of cleverly placed LED lighting to create a truly unique appearance. “After the study of the configuration of the house and its natural lighting, a new program was elaborated, giving aesthetic coherence to the different rooms, working with the light, the environments, the interior organization and the spatial amplitude,” said architect, María Fernández Torrado. “When studying the optimization of space, we found that there was a large amount of open space, without natural light, full of doors and empty of content, which is common among the vast majority of conventional flats of block houses [in Albacete].
“The intention of this project was to ensure that this lost area of communication ceased to be a residual area and became the protagonist, articulating the space and causing a journey through it,” she went on to explain. “In this way, it became a sculptural element that runs through the house. Influenced by the metaphysical box of Oteiza, where the cube is called the box because it contains the void inside, this space is endowed with that void and textures and gives it volume through large-format and minimal thickness ceramics.”
After opening the home’s floor plan, Torrado opted to use porcelain tile in place of natural stone for the design elements, given its technical characteristics. “When deciding that the sculptural piece should be made of ceramic, I was studying the market and porcelain was adjusted to the aesthetic needs for the good quality of marble imitation and the rest of its organoleptic characteristics,” she said.
Torrado utilized 13 pieces of 120- x 250-cm porcelain tiles from Porcelanosa’s XLight collection in the “Kala White Nature” design, which emulates Calacatta marble with a matte finish. The 6-mm-thick tiles were used on the walls near the entrance, cladding the back of the front door, as well as the walls and ceiling in the adjacent hallway. “This is a material that, due to its texture is visually heavy but which, due to its format, thickness and physical and mechanical characteristics, allowed us to read it again, transforming the visual weight into lightness,” Torrado said. “To enhance that, the sculptural piece was surrounded with indirect lighting, emphasizing its lightness.”
When conceptualizing the “sculptural piece,” Torrado wanted it to be all-inclusive with the home’s overall design, which is why she decided to carry the tiles from the walls up onto the ceiling. “The difficulty involved in creating a habitable sculpture was to get the material to travel through all the plans, including the roof of the house. To achieve that sculpted interior aesthetic, but at the same time keep it light, it had to be lower than the roof of the rest of the house, so the large-format pieces could not be held directly to the floor,” Torrado explained. “The new support used was that of a second plasterboard ceiling anchored to the floor by means of a double substructure, and on this plasterboard, the pieces were glued all over its surface with a reactive resin adhesive with a two-component polyurethane base — Butech’s Politech N — and were placed so that they were supported by the vertical pieces in order to prevent their detachment.”
Also, to enhance the feeling of lightness and aesthetics of the sculpture, some pieces had to be held up in relation to their support. “For this, in addition to the substructure, the ceramic pieces were duplicated in the flown parts and reinforcement plates were inserted inside, which when they form an angle, allow pieces to be grasped in different planes,” Torrado said. “The edges were also doubled to achieve greater impact resistance in the flown areas, where the LED strips that run around the piece were hidden. Likewise, short vertical strips were opened at the base level to insert two parallel LED profiles that gently illuminate the piece from the inside.”
With all of these intricate details, Torrado was required onsite throughout of the installation to ensure the novel design was implemented accordingly. “We were there three times a week until the piece was completed,” she said.
The project, which took around seven months to finalize, was unveiled in 2018. With high praise from both the owners and visitors, the Atrium House was also awarded special recognition in the “International” category at 2019 Coverings Installation & Design Awards (CID) Awards.
Architect: Torrado Arquitectura, Albacete, Spain
Tile Supplier: Porcelanosa, Albacete, Spain (Urbatek’s XLight collection in “Kala White Nature”)
Tile Installation Products: Porcelanosa, Albacete, Spain (Butech’s Politech N)