The Cove at The Piazza, a 2021 recipient of the Ceramics of Italy Tile Competition in the “Commercial” category, is a striking outdoor pool area at an apartment complex in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. With towering angular structures clad with gauged porcelain tile panels in a concrete-effect style from Italian tile manufacturer Mirage, the outside living space is a showcase of unique architectural features constructed by the design team at Post Brothers -- a local residential development company. Rebecca Frisch, vice president of the design team at Post Brothers, shared details with TILE about the tile design.

“We are always looking to bring new and interesting design elements into our projects,” said Frisch, when explaining about the decision to use Mirage tile. “Post Brothers acquired The Piazza, a multifamily complex built on the site of a 1860s German brewery in 2017. It consisted of three concrete towers around a vast public plaza with ground floor retail. While it was less than 10 years old at the time of the purchase, it was in need of a major overhaul. In an effort to make the project more cohesive and in line with our other highly amenitized properties, we designed an amenity pool club with three unique pools in the center of the site.”

While the design team found inspiration in several monolithic triangular forms done in concrete, the material was not feasible given the complexities of the project, according to Frisch. “We were able to come up with an alternative material to concrete -- Mirage Glocal Ginger Natural 10 porcelain tile. The warm-toned coloring, soft texture and large-scale format of the tile gave the project an even more inviting palette than concrete could offer.

“Taking advantage of the grand scale of the surrounding buildings, the Italian tile was able to play off the light in a manner that continuous concrete could not,” the designer went on to say. “The abstract and unarticulated designed pavilions chart the sun’s path; warming some surfaces, shading others and projecting animated shadows. The water of the pools further reflects rippled light onto the surrounding smooth surfaces. This playful use of light converts urban life into something unexpected, calming and cleansing.”

According to Frisch, the unique characteristics of the tile enabled us to use a singular material on all surfaces, including the walls, floors, inside and outside of the pavilion structures, and even the upper interior of the pools. “This uniformity transformed the overall space into a sleek and attractive destination, which achieved our ultimate result of a series of modern Roman grottos,” she said.

In total, 26,200 square feet of tile was employed for the project and MAPEI products were used for the installation. The tile clads the pull club pavilions, as well as the interior pool and hot tub finishes. “The size of the tiles required a special anchoring system, which was developed specifically for this project by our design team and Mirage,” explained Frisch. “There was a lot of supervision. I was concerned with clean even level tile installation with minimal grout joints.”

Despite any challenges, the design of The Cove and The Piazza was completed in nine months and received enthusiastic praise from all those involved, as well as the residential community.

Video: Publishing Commercial Winner, The Cove at the Piazza