The Swedish Stone Association (Sveriges Stenindustriförbund) holds a competition in product design with students from Malmö University

The lamp “Arco” by the Castiglioni brothers.

The aim is to discover new markets and to “show that really everything can be made of stone,” says the chairman of the organization

In the spring of 2021, the Swedish Stone Industry Association (Sveriges Stenindustriförbund), in collaboration with the faculty for product design at Malmö University, will call for a design competition among students inscribed in the course material-driven design (MDD). The aim is to increase knowledge about natural stones’ properties and opportunities.

“We have traditionally been very focused on stone as a building material in Sweden, but internationally, stone design is a huge market. In addition, stone design is at the forefront of technology and shows that really everything can be made of stone,” says Kai Marklin, chairman of the association, according to a press release.

Participating students shall design a product for everyday usage that is mainly made of stone. It must have an innovative function or improve an already available product. More than this, the design shall allow a mass-production by a Swedish natural stone company. Items made of leftovers from stone production will get special attention, says Marklin.

The first prize is SEK 10,000 (1200 US-$), the other participants will be awarded a diploma.

Brief History of Product Design with Stone

Product Design with natural stone started in the 1960ies in the Carrara region when new tools like the angle grinder or the diamond cutting disk came up. Stonemasons and sculptors were eager to find new ways for the usage of their marbles. In that period, many design classics were created like the “Arco“ lamp by Achille and Pier Castiglioni (see photo on top).

Yet in the coming decades, the designers never succeed in breaking away from sculpting. Most of them started with a massive block from which they chiseled parts away. The fatal consequence was that the design objects were heavy, unfunctional, and could not be sold.

The fundamental problem here was the lack of a theory – it never had been well defined what stone design was (and what not). This problem was obvious at the “Marmomacc Meets Design“ initiative by the Verona stone fair from 2007 until 2014. Many beautiful objects shown there were simply artists’ exercises in stone.

A  doorstopper by Italian designer Raffaele Familari shown at the Milan Design Week 2016. In terms of form (that is how the object looks), stone does not play the first role. But in terms of function (functionality) it does.

Yet in the last years, outside the natural stone fairs, designers found new ways which try a design with stone (instead of a design made of stone). They created furniture pieces or accessories where only parts consisted of stone and where the material’s unique properties (e.g. its weight or its beauty) were crucial for the items’ functionality.

The idea was picked up e.g., by the Xiamen Stone Fair with its „Stone Infinite“ exhibition focused on products that find a market. Recently, the Turkish stone association EIB (Aegean Exporters Association) focused on the same concept.

The vanity mirrors „Naia“ by CTRLZAK designers have a conspicuous back available in various types of marble. Shown at the Salone del Mobile fair in Milan 2017.

Sveriges Stenindustriförbund (Swedish)

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(23.12.2020, USA: 12.23.2020)