Newsletter nr. 8
Italbec Wins 2009 Marmomacc Grande Pinnacle Award For Its Role In “W” Hotel In Miami
By Prof. Christian R. Pongratz, Pongratz Perbellini Architects (Verona)/Associate Professor and Director, M.S. Digital Design and Fabrication (DDF), College of Architecture, Texas Tech University
(Each year, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) recognizes excellence in stone architecture through its Pinnacle Awards. An award is given in each of the following categories: commercial interior, commercial exterior, residential interior or exterior, and renovation/restoration. Eligible projects must include at least one MIA member. In 2008, the MIA introduced the Marmomacc-sponsored “Grande Pinnacle Award” as a “best in show” prize, recognizing the most outstanding project among the Pinnacle winners. Christian Pongratz took part in the Pinnacle jury deliberations on behalf of Marmomacc in both 2008 and 2009)
This past August, just over a year after the new Marmomacc Grande Pinnacle Award was added to the MIA Pinnacle Awards, I took part in the jury to select the winners for 2009. I was even more impressed with the quality of the projects that were submitted this year compared to the many excellent submissions of 2008.
A total of thirteen awards were given -- three Awards of Excellence and ten Awards of Merit – all for projects that revealed very particular ideas on how stone can be implemented.
The 2009 Marmomacc Grande Pinnacle Award-winning project was the “W” Hotel in South Beach, Florida, designed by NBWWW Architects. The “W” Hotel had been selected as the Pinnacle winner for the commercial interior category. Italbec U.S., based in Florida, was the stone fabricator and installer on the project, with the stone supplied by Ciot Tecnica of Montreal. After reviewing all of the entries and shortlisted projects, the “W” Hotel stood out because of its innovative integration of a variety of materials -- most of all stone -- to form a very modern and contemporary interior flair, unique to the overly design-saturated Miami scene.
Speaking of design competitions, South Beach features several luxury boutique hotels, many of which have received accolades in the recent past -- such as The Setai or The Delano -- thanks to the creativity of Philippe Starck and others. The “W” now lines up to be in the top rank, to some extent seeming almost like a showroom of the kind that stone suppliers would aspire to create. The art of the project, however, is more about how stone in its colorations and textures can combine with other materials like ceramic tiles and textiles. Closely following the trend of “a new baroque,” the interiors excel with a richness of texture wherever you look.
There is an attentive dedication to the play of stone finishes, such as polished, honed or rough cut, together with a “wild” mix of marble, granite and semi-precious stone (do not misunderstand me; I see this as a positive). You can easily see this in the book-matching of the marble in the lounge and in the installation of large stone panels, in particular on the twenty foot-tall lobby walls. Just imagine a project with a total surface area of over 40,000 square meters between flooring, walls, bathrooms, kitchens, bars and lounges etc. in marble, granite and ceramic tiles and you know where the $14.5M were spent.
The goal of the project, which is described as “provid(ing) the best of everything for a very discerning clientele,” set a very high standard for the architects to meet. It is really worth a visit, in order to personally experience a somewhat risky endeavor succeed as an exciting composition. This success is achieved by combining a large variety of stone -- from White Quartzite, to Grigio Orobio, to Absolute Black Granite -- with handcrafted metalwork, African-inspired carpets, and selected modern furniture highlighted by exquisite fabrics. It reminds me somewhat of the new luxury that we discovered in the Miami-style interiors of hotels designed by the now almost legendary Morris Lapidus. It is definitely a demarcation of individual spaces through their surface materials on floor and wall, together with a furniture mix that evokes this eternal feeling of luxury.
The Bryant Residence in Austin, Texas won the residential interior/exterior Award of Excellence. This project was designed by the Cornerstone Group and features stone from Architectural Granite & Marble in Austin, installed by Hill Country Granite. Most impressive, in this private residence, was a nice and sophisticated integration of the Selina Gold Limestone used to pave the ground floor, which smoothly complements the overall color palette of the other interior finishes and creates a warm interior feel. In addition, by using Goldstone Granite on the exterior paving and pool – in a coping with a rough kind of chisel finish -- and on the fireplace cladding in a split-face, the designers bring all outdoor finishes into a well-balanced harmony. Use of the Goldstone Granite on the exterior also makes for the well-known pleasure and atmosphere of a soft-toned limestone, while, in this case, lending a more modern feel to the project than the traditional Texas Hill Country Style.
This year’s Award of Excellence in the category of commercial exterior was given to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California, designed by Renzo Piano’s firm. The stone supplier was Freda Marmi and the installer Columbia Stone of Oregon. This downtown Los Angeles neighborhood, which is still undergoing deliberate reurbanization -- initiated some years ago with the transfer of the renowned architecture school Sci-Arc -- is now bestowed with a new architectural highlight. Staying true to his origin, Mr. Piano brought Italian Travertine and elevated this material, which is not unknown to the Los Angeles area, to new elegance by cladding all exterior surfaces with this soft colored stone. We would be mistaken, however, about the architect’s true intentions, if we were to think that his commitment to craftsmanship stopped there. The stone’s rough surface qualities were deliberately highlighted by bush-hammering the material to enhance its qualities.
As with most of Piano’s museums in the US, the way in which the natural daylighting condition of the interior spaces is developed does not disappoint. As opposed, however, to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and the Menil Collection in Houston -- both museums are characterized by a very subtle filtering device on top of the glass roof -- the LACMA boasts a large-scale saw-tooth roofline, completely in travertine and covered with metallic sun-shading “sails.” This is another strategy to bathe the interiors with daylight. Other more artistic devices on the exterior include red signaling I–beams punching through the stone walls just below the roof. These beams are partially used to suspend an outdoor staircase leading to the upper museum levels.
All projects submitted for this year’s Pinnacle awards showed many interesting ideas and, in general, excellence in the selection of natural stone and its implementation. This is also true of the two runners-up in the residential interior/exterior category, which received Awards of Merit. David Kleinberg Design Associates of New York designed a private residence in Washington DC, which is located within the Four Seasons Hotel. This project required custom shop drawings, as well as local (Rugo Stone LLC) and Italian fabrication. The beige Gohare Limestone, which is used together with various white marbles, gives this residence a very modern feel and atmosphere.
The Newport Beach Residence in California, designed by EBTA Architects, made extensive use of Roman Travertine supplied by Walker Zanger and installed by SMG Stone Company -- which is based in Sun Valley, CA -- on a surface area of about 330 square meters. The travertine with a split-face finish, is applied to both the inside and outside walls, creating an impressive presence and thereby forming an elegant continuity with the courtyard and garden.
In the commercial exteriors category, the jury selected three projects for Awards of Merit. My personal favorite is the new Bailey Plaza at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. The architect, Michael Van Valkenburg, did an excellent job in converting a parking lot into a pedestrian plaza, which connects the Bailey Hall Auditorium to Cornell’s Arts Triangle. The design of the plaza is laid out with a very dynamic geometry that traces the major pedestrian movements across the space. This geometry, in turn, directs the placement of locally quarried bluestone and cleft (supplied by Connecticut Stone Supplies). The choice of stone is enhanced by plants and water features in the fountain, but mainly through large layered stone slabs that evoke the idea of geological movements. This sculptural and artistic intervention is carried out by shifting large stone masses from the plaza upward in steep slopes or by playfully scattering large stone blocks, which become seating benches.
A second commercial exterior Award of Merit was given to the Sun Valley Music Pavilion in Idaho, designed by Ruscitto Latham Blanton Architecture. It is a project developed with the conceptual goal of integrating the facility and partially-covered outdoor areas for music events with the surrounding mountainous environment. For this purpose, the 3300 square meters of Roman Travertine delivered by Mariotti S.p.a. and installed by KEPCO+ of Salt Lake, were split-face finished with open joints to enhance the rugged effect of the material.
The other impressive project in this category is the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple in South Jordan, Utah, designed by Naylor Wentworth Lund Architects. The building forms part of the LDS Temples complex and is completely clad in Uinta Gold Granite mixed with two other granites supplied by Bestview International from Illinois and installed by Caffall Tile and Stone Co., Utah. The height of the temple rises, with its stone spire, to 193 feet. The most dominant features are the intricate stone carvings, which are present on much of the more than 1130 cubic meters of stone. Together with additional craftsmanship on wood and glass, as well as works of art, the temple is worth a visit for a close-up look at the stone work.
The category of commercial interior also saw three projects receive Awards of Merit. Most notable is the Maguire Lobby of the KPMG office in Los Angeles, a project that included the remodeling of the elevator and entrance lobby and was designed by Aref and Associates. The design integrates White Neoparies with Piana Carrara Marble delivered and installed by Carnevale & Lohr Inc. of California. I was mostly attracted by how the Carrara is installed more than 15 centimeters away from the base wall and indirectly illuminated along the top and bottom of the edge, so as to make the marble appear to float in the air.
Both of the other Award of Merit recipients for commercial interiors were selected as a result of the effect that a large intricate pattern of an interior wall cladding can achieve. The Bank of America One Bryant Park building, designed by Cook + Fox Architects, almost “shocks” with a nearly three-floor tall main lobby wall, showing off the 900 square meters of Jerusalem Gray Limestone supplied by Wilkstone LLC (New Jersey). The suggestive pattern of the wall is achieved by installing each single limestone slab individually with steel clips, allowing the varying thickness and size to create a shadow and light pattern all across the lobby.
In a similar fashion, the interior open stairwell framed by transparent glass becomes the major attraction in the law office of Morrison & Foerster LLP in Washington, designed by Mancini Duffy Architects. The well-known stone supplier and installer Rugo Stone LLC does an excellent job with the Ramon Grey Gold Limestone from Jerusalem and exposes the rugged quality of the material by giving it a continuous hand-chiseled finish. The stone becomes the center point in a modern interior around which circulation and lounge areas are concentrated.
The final project I would like to mention is the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine. The jury gave it an Award of Merit for renovation/restoration because of the well-designed integration between a sensitive restoration of the façade and entrance areas with a very elegant modern addition. The architects, Machado and Silvetti Associates, are known for using stone extensively in their projects and so it is no surprise that Sterling Grey Granite, imported by J.C. Stone Inc. (Jefferson, Maine), is used in many interiors and expressed through different finishes. While on the façade the granite finish is bush-hammered, some of the interior flooring is laid out in an alternating polygonal geometry that forms innovative stone patterns.
Finally, let me thank the other jury members and the organizers from the Marble Institute (MIA) for their great work and spirit, which made it very pleasant to be part of their team. I think this year’s Marmomacc Grande Pinnacle Award winner underlines the current trend of increased intensity in the design of interior and exterior surfaces, away from minimalistic interiors and towards the “new ornament,” with texture, color and evocative tactility. Stone seems to be entering the competition with other materials from a new perspective and plays an ever more important role in the shaping of our environment. I am really looking forward to seeing next year’s entries and expect nothing less than an increased effort in innovative stone applications.
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