NEW YORK—On Oct. 20, a panel of architects and specialists gathered here at the Times Center, for an event sponsored by Tile of Spain, the U.S. brand for the Spanish Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER). Along with product displays from nine ASCER-aligned companies, a panel discussion featuring Spanish architect Angela Garcia de Paredes, principal of Paredes Pedrosa Architects in Madrid; Richard Southwick, director of preservation at Beyer Blinder Belle in New York; Ignacio Fernandez Solla of Façade Team Arup Spain, and ceramic tile consultant Patti Fasan was moderated by Metropolis Magazine editor in chief Susan Szenasy.
The evening was considered a success by Tile of Spain. “We accomplished exactly what we set out to do with Material Matters,” said David Portales, promotion manager, ASCER. “To drive awareness of the need for using smart, sustainable building materials in today’s urban environment and to initiate honest, collaborative discussion about ceramic tile as one of these key materials. Just as the double entendre in the name implies, these are key issues that merit discussion among architects and designers and yes, the material matters.”
Presentations on projects utilizing ceramic tile opened the evening with Charles Kramer of Beyer Blinder Belle discussing the firm’s work in restoring the TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy airport in Queens, N.Y. Kramer’s firm has undergone the task of tile restoration throughout the space. For example, the main lobby holds thousands of round tiles smaller than a penny, some of which are being replaced, others simply polished and reinforced. When it came to the grout, Kramer told the audience that Mapei manufactured a custom product to match the original areas not in need of replacement.
Paredes also discussed her use of tile in projects across Spain. “The motto of the event is Materials Matters,” she told the audience as she set up her presentation. “You have to think of the material at the same time you think about the building and the architecture. Ceramic lets time pass through the buildings, and permits continuity of tradition and the strength in itself for renovation with contemporary architecture.”
Later, during the panel discussion, the future of tile was a point of focus. “The North American building market, and society, is not aware of the research and development that goes on constantly,” Fasan shared. “They’re thinking of a material that hasn’t changed substantially in a long time, but incrementally I’ve seen such dramatic changes in this material over the last 30 years.” She said Tile of Spain is working with major universities like Harvard to grow the use of tile. Advances in photovoltaics to generate energy, titanium oxide for self-cleaning properties and bionics for reducing air pollution were discussed but it was implied a medium-tech or “common sense technology,” as Paredes coined it, would be the sustainable future of tile. “To look back to the history and tradition [of ceramic use] is important but it is also important to look toward the future,” she said. “We should not invent a new type of architecture everyday but we can know architecture from the past and use it for new times.”