3 Prominent insights into the world of ceramics

by Tania Wannenburg
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Identifying 3 prominent insights into ceramics & porcelain tiles & highlighting 10 products showcased at Cersaie 2015.

If you mention the Cersaie International Exhibition of Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings in Bologna, Italy, one of the first thoughts regarding tiles that come to mind is all things ceramic and porcelain. This is because the exhibition has built a solid reputation worldwide as a show that shares all the top trends and insights in the industry – and that’s just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.  

The most significant statistic from this year’s Cersaie, which ran from 28 September to 2 October, was the attendance of more than 101 000 visitors. Once again the commercial side of the show was complemented by events catering for the world of architecture, interior design, installation and end consumers.


As part of the Cersaie 2015 “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” programme, Matthias Sauerbruch (a German Architect and founding partner of Sauerbruch & Hutton) discussed his respective design philosophies, along with renowned Spanish architect, Francisco Mangado. Matthias’s architectural style is based on functional yet sensual and conscientious forms. The hallmark of his work is the strong presence of colour. “I believe colour is essential for expressing our design ideas,” he said. “And ceramic is the ideal material for doing this. Its coloured surfaces are not only the most durable material, but by far the most beautiful.”

Matthias is not afraid to experiment with colours and chiaroscuro effects (the use of strong contrasts between light and dark) with the aim of creating optical illusions. He aptly quotes philosopher Martin Heidegger: “Our work as architects is also a form of self-expression, a way of defining our existence in perfect harmony with the surrounding environment. But it is also a means of recovering the history of a building and integrating it perfectly into its context.”


The third edition of ‘Ceramic Futures – From Poetry to Science Fiction’ saw more than 100 students participating in two categories:- “The Community” and “Best Projects”. Three international schools of design participated along with six winners. The tutors from the three schools who supervised the students’ work throughout the entire design process reflected on the importance of the competition. “Ceramic is the material used by the ancients to pass on their memories for posterity in the form of statues and sculptures,” said Anna Bernagozzi, tutor at École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (EnsAD) in Paris, France.

“Tomorrow’s designers must be like DJs who mix together different languages and techniques to create a compilation that engages all the senses,” said Michele Bortolami.

This project, which culminates at Cersaie with an exhibition, catalogue and a conference, has also become an ethnographic exploration capable of influencing the future development of ceramic products.


The book “The evolution of ceramic in design culture over the course of a decade”, edited by Alessandra Coppa and published by Maggioli Editore, was presented at Cersaie. It contains interviews with 25 Italian and non-Italian architects between 2004 and 2014. After discussing their architectural projects, the architects were asked for their views on ceramic tiles.

“The relationship between architects and ceramic tiles has changed enormously over the course of a decade,” explained Alessandra. “What we have witnessed is a transition from ‘object to project’. Initially architects tended to look down on this material, almost ignoring it, but now they use it in a variety of original ways as an important component of their projects.” (Take a look at the top 10 ceramic floors as an example of this.)

According to Andreas Kipar, who worked on the urban redevelopment project for Porta Nuova in Milan, architects must satisfy the needs of society. “In particular, there’s now a deeply felt necessity for urban greenery, for re-development with a focus on nature. And ceramic, with all its characteristics, is the right product to make the most of these kinds of projects.”

“Ceramics have evolved,” said Andrea Maffei, one of the 25 architects interviewed. “From a simple, almost ‘poor’ material, it has developed into an extremely popular design product suitable for use in large-scale projects. I believe this will be the real challenge of the next ten years.”

Filippo Manuzzi, Brand Manager at Ceramiche Sant’Agostino who has worked with star architects for several years, stated that architects are developing a new relationship with ceramic. “They’re now closer than ever to this product, they base their projects on it and use it in innovative ways,” he explained. “The role of the manufacturers has consequently also changed. We’re now the first to put forward new and original ideas to architects. And ceramic has become one of their favourite products.”

Top 10 products setting new trends
Main themes are the interpretation of natural materials and NovaBell’s aim to propose collections resembling natural stone and wood.
1.    District
This is a new collection of fine porcelain tiles interpreting the natural patterning of stone through a careful use of colour gradients. From traditional square and rectangular tiles to the oversized 60 x 120 cm slabs, from the mosaic to the brick, wall-style and multi-format solutions to the decorative deco wave and diamond tiles.
2.    Time Design
The durable surface of fine porcelain tiles, the warm and natural look of wood and the charm of the patina of time. It is suitable for residential and public interiors and outdoors. It offers five natural colours, extending delicate gradients, textures and patterning. The simulation of wood is taken to a level where possible imperfections become part of the tile, intensifying its character. The available formats, from different sizes of planks to mosaics, from brick-style formats to the hexagon mosaic, highlights its parquet-like look.
3.    Aroma Collection
This collection comes in a wide variety of colours, catering for the most discreet and boldest of tastes, with its neutral shades and the stronger and more striking colours that are in fashion. These tiles are porous white-body tiles with a modern appearance and a light structure.
4.    Blend Collection
Blend takes its appearance from cement and comes in an elegant range of colours. The floor tile collection, in enamelled stoneware, has a modern, contemporary touch thanks to the urbane appearance of screed cement.
5.    Nest Collection
Nest interprets natural stone, evoking a return to nature in its purest form. It has a matte appearance and comes in a palette of neutral colours – white, grey and beige. It is available in mono-porous white body tiles and also in enamelled stoneware.
6.    Tracks Collection
This collection stands out due to its visual power – a porcelain stoneware which evokes quartzite, metamorphic rock with highly differentiated shades. It is available in four different graphic effects and full of detail and comes in a range that goes from clear snow to dark night.
7.    Haus Collection
This new collection includes attractive and modern surfaces reminiscent of cement. Soft shading, soft graphic effects, muddy and glossy shades are the hallmark of a floor dedicated to the design of trendy residential and commercial spaces. In addition to the traditional natural finish 80 x 80, 60 x 60 and 30 x 60, the collection includes the original Hexagon size for customising spaces with creative geometry.
8.    Superlativa
Superlativa is the marble effect ceramic line for floors and coverings, which includes three shades in increasing chromatic scale (white, light and dark grey) which can be perfectly combined with each other. There are also three floor surface finishes available to the designer: natural matt, carved and honed. Finishes, colours and sizes (60×120, 20×120, 60×60, 30×60) always create new compositions.
9.    Dwell
The range includes two porcelain tile finishes that recall the aesthetics of spatula-applied concrete and resin for metropolitan floors. The matt porcelain tiles create an urban character typical of natural concrete applied by hand, with changes and unevenness of colour, flakes and granules. Large slabs in a 120 x 120 size with matt finish emphasise the effect of concrete-looking floors.
10.    Brave
The stone-inspired porcelain tiles in the 2cm thickness ensure a strong and expressive statement for exterior floors. Porcelain slabs rich in details and graphic versatility create spectacular exteriors with a durable, slip-resistant surface.

The simulation of natural materials such as wood and stone is quite prominent and a growing trend.

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