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Design: Cobblestones as a monitor

(February 2010) A place paved in cobblestone has some similarity to a computer monitor: each stone represents a pixel, the big picture comprising all pixel stones together. Therefore a cobble stoned place could have the function of an over-sized monitor provided it is possible illuminate the stones.

Italian artist Denis Santachiara in cooperation with Odorizzi Porfidi, filled the preconditions. Use was made of Porphyr-cobblestones measuring about 10 cm x 10 cm x 8 cm into which light emitting diodes (LED) were incorporated. The name of the project was „LED Flooring“.

Denis Santachiara’s idea came to fruition in spring and fall at last year’s Saie „New Stone Age Design“, which took place in Bologna. Santachiara took on the role of curator. The initiators are the fair organizing enterprise in cooperation with the Italian trade organization Confindustria Marmomacchine, co-sponsored by the natural stone brand Pietra Autentica.

Santachiara’s concept is based on a symbiosis between natural stone and man-made technology. „We strive to conserve the natural beauty of stone and to show it off as well“, as Santachiara’s partner and assistant Tomaso Schaffino describes it.

Technology and design lend extra design value to stone. In regard to light this can mean: during the day stone holds its own, but under the cloak of darkness where everything looks grey, the stone can develop its alter ego with the help of light.

A good example is Santachiara’s „Krypton table“ comprised of travertine table legs coated in a new resin giving off a fluorescent glow at night – a true party attraction. Italian based Cremar was responsible for the production.

An important trademark of Santachiara’s work is that it is a technological forerunner, e.g. with his „touch sensitive stone“ where technology type touch screen is implemented allowing the user to turn pages at the swoosh of a fingertip. With regard to stone this means that a thin marble plate must react to the tough of a hand. The LED back-lit plates then glow in graphic pattern. Here the idea was put into production by the Italian Formigari Group.

Of course LED-lit calendars or digital clocks pop to mind. Ideas of this sort were produced for the „Stone-Age“ 2008 whereby Santachiara already had his focus set on super-thin panels back then.

Let us take a look at other designers and companies: The Austrian Centre for Development Grein Tec of the Austro-Italian Grein Group also works with ultra-thin stone and light. For some years now it has marketed „Granite glass“ where a stone plate is sandwiched between sheets of glass and then sliced lengthwise. The stone then becomes translucent and can be illuminated from the rear.

The idea is implemented in exclusive interior design concepts. Stone with brilliant colours and interesting structures such as Grein’s exotic granite from Brazil or the well known translucent Onyx, often used for wellness effects, are best suited.

Modern lighting concepts can intensify the positive feeling, which naturally accompanies stone. „Doping for the soul“ is what some call the affordable mise-en-scène for interior decoration.

Traditionally lighting was used to illuminate the surface of stone – high relief becomes light, low relief is dark. Sunlight creates an ever-changing play of lights throughout the day.

The German Solnhofen Stone Group took up on this idea in directing a moving spotlight along stone slabs.

Closer yet to the stone’s heart are concepts like the one where light shines out of the interior of a pillar. Below see light emanating from a lava stone make by the Italian Zignale Company. Another example is the glowing stone-cubes we reported on in our June 2008 issue.

Artist Jochen Kitzbihler wed natural stone and light. A granite tower which adorns the head office of Freiburg’s laser producing Z-Laser company glows at night as the result of red laser lights installed in its interior.

Italian based Citco caused some raised eyebrows at the 2008 Marmomacc with its stone element wall „Puzzle” resembling woven fabric intensified by integrated lighting. It was designed by Pietro Ferruccio Laviani employing Desert Honey limestone.

And last but not least two pieces by Designer Francesco Lucchese of the Italian based Luce di Carrara company. The „Dedalo“ collection is a series of 50 cm x 50 cm Palladio-Marble tiles with a hole in the centre behind which a source of light is mounted. The light either glows through a translucent stone, alongside an opaque stone or along a type of rod made of onyx.

The effect of indirect lighting emitted at an obtuse angle is the trick behind the „Adamas“ collection. The knack of this illuminated wall or of the flooring without light elements lies in the varying thickness of the stone plates making them appear wedged or interlocked. The edges of the plates are worked in such a way that light gives the tiles a special accent. The collection is available in Carrara marble Palladio, Tiziano, Petra and Delfi, the tiles come in 50 cm x 50 cm or 50 cm x 100 cm.