By Mario Pisani
Our lifestyle today seems to be based mainly on a concept of contemporality, so much so that we tend, on the whole, to ignore many of the valuable lessons left to us by the past. As such, this has limited our commitment and interest to design and project for the future.
Consequently, we seem to have lost the ability to convey the concept of a monument, in as far as it represents mnemonic recollection of either an illustrious individual or an important event. In fact, the Modern Movement in its very nature, following its dream of progress, could not afford to reflect on the past, and in the process negated all form of historical validity as a stepping stone to both present and future.
Recently, however, with the change in our thinking processes, we have discovered that this form of mind set and ideology deprives us of an essential and significant retention of the past in our memory chambers, without which we of course, risk not only a sterile oblivion, but also a possible insanity. As such, our interest today has now turned to the creation of works necessary to counteract contemporary commercial fashion consumerism to fix in space and time for future generations a stabilizing anchor in our collective imagination, emphasizing the origins and motivations which germinate the concept of the work in question.
It was within these parameters that the Casalgrande firm of ceramics commissioned Kengo Kuma, the Japanese architect renowned for his minimal projects including tea pavillions, miniature museums and bamboo houses to design their new premises. The concept proposed by Kuma manifested itself as a pavillion threshold in a public garden in the district of Casalgrande, laid out over an area of 2,800 square meters. A large circular enclosure consisting of white pebbles (from which the ceramic material is extracted) oscillates as a floating screen, together with a perforated wall and a mirrored water surface, projecting enticing reflections of the whole project.
The work is entitled CCCloud as if to emphasize the dynamic and sinuous qualities of the impalpable wall. Floating cloudlike, it tapers to its limits from its central 1.7 metre thick section. The wall, which reaches a height of six metres, features ceramics utilized structurally incorporating nine layers of porcelain gres tiles each measuring 60 x 120 cms manufactured by the Casalgrande establishment itself.
Obviously a project of this nature could not have been realized without the full participation of the clients themselves. It was Vitruvius who long ago stated that architecture has two parents, the client and the architect, without whose total commitment and participation, manifestation of a work would not be possible.
The fascinating aspect of this project focuses on the transformation of the ceramic tile into a structural element, elevating it from its usual usage as solely a cladding material. Working in collaboration with the Casalgrande ceramic team, Kengo Kuma has utilized this material imaginatively to create a work which appears both dynamic and weightless, evoking images of an almost oscillating veil-like structure.
This is a project which is not concerned simply with the placing of an object in a specific space, but more as the creation of a particular place. Adhering to today’s contemporary anti-monumental approach in architecture, this project is designed to appear almost as an illusory dissolving image; only in the interior do the ephemeral walls acquire solidity. This indeed is a dynamic architecture of movement conveying the spirit of our age, while also demonstrating the architect’s desire to etch and leave some sign of permanence.