Architects Laura Mascino and Barbara Agnoletto have brought the urban sensibility of Italy to Kobe, Japan, with their winning design for a piazza paved in Italian tiles. Working with San Clemente–based ceramics manufacturer Del Conca, they developed a thicker-than-average tile that can withstand the wear and tear of pedestrian and automobile traffic. “Before this product, ceramic-tiled roadways were not possible,” Mascino says. “This has opened a huge area for experimentation.”
When the city of Kobe was devastated by an earthquake in 1995, it became a hotbed of reconstruction. As part of the redevelopment effort, Assopiastrelle, Italy’s association of ceramic-tile producers, hosted a competition to integrate the archetypal piazza into the city’s urban fabric. Mascino and Agnoletto’s design was chosen out of more than 700 proposals and met with enthusiastic response from the city when the installation was completed last year.
The drama of the square comes as much from its innovative paving as from its sweeping topography. To keep the tiles from looking like stone, the architects tinted them a vibrant blue, referencing the color of frescoed vaults of the Italian Renaissance. They were stamped with variegated ridges to promote drainage and to prevent pedestrians from slipping. “The pattern of the ridges makes the piazza’s surface appear to vibrate,” Mascino says. “It gives the material great life and movement.”
Del Conca Ceramic Tiles
A mixture of feldspar, powdered clay, and pigment is machine-stamped and then fired at high heat.
Tiles this sturdy and resistant are appropriate for both residential and high-traffic commercial applications. They can be used to pave courtyards, gardens, and roadways or to clad the exterior of a building.
They are fade-resistant and able to withstand extreme weather conditions, such as ice or intense heat, and heavy pressure, such as the weight of automobiles.
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