On 2nd October 2010, the spotlights of international architectural culture focussed on the small industrial town of Casalgrande, in theprovinceof Reggio Emilia, where “Casalgrande Padana”, the manufacturer of ceramic products, is based.

Its constant research activity in the fields of technological and artistic innovation enables Casalgrande Padana to play a leading role in its sector at international level and to become one of the symbols of production deeply rooted in its economic district also thanks to the “historical” social and cultural commitment of the company in the municipal territory.

The 50th anniversary of the company was celebrated as a collective celebration, on the occasion of which Casalgrande Padana shared its history with the local community and seized the opportunity to donate “Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud”, the first Italian work by Kengo Kuma, the famous Japanese Master, to the town, as a real urban “manifesto” located inside a roundabout approximately 30 metresaway from the access to the Pedemontana road. The undisputable protagonists of the day included Kengo Kuma, who designed the work; Mario Nanni, the man who conceived and founded the Viabizzuno company, who dealt with the light system project; last but not least, Franco Manfredini, the Chairman of Confindustria Ceramica and CEO of Casalgrande Padana.

The press conference was held in the morning on the ground floor devoted to the  Casalgrande Padana museum, designed according to a project by Kengo Kuma and still under way.

First of all, the architect illustrated some of his interventions inspired by traditional Japanese tearooms, which shed light on the marked experimental  nature of his work. For example, the many examples mentioned include small temporary halls which may feature an inflatable membrane envelope (Teehaus, Frankfurt, 2007), an umbrella ensemble  (Casa Umbrella, Milan, 2008), plastic tanks (Water Branch, New York, 2007), stone slabs (StoneCastle, Verona 2007) or aluminium slabs (Aluminium Card, Toyama 2009). At a later stage, the project led to a larger scale architecture, as shown in the “Lucien Pellat – Finet” (Osaka, 2009) store, the Granada Performing Art Centre (Granada, 2008, being built) and, last but not least, “Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud”.
Kuma clearly and effectively described the inspiration principles of the work based in Emilia. By assembling 1,052 pure-white ceramic tiles of nine different sizes, closely associated to the inner steel structure, the Japanese master wished to revise the traditional concept of ceramics as a covering material to give new structural and figurative potential in the 3D space to this extraordinary material. The work resembles some sort of “living architecture”, constantly changing according to the observer’s position: consequently, from the sides it appears as a very thin and elongated line, whereas from the front it turns into a continuous 45 meterlarge surface, a sort of masonry curtain crossed by light and closely interconnected to the surrounding environment. The idea of a monument which does not exist “per se” but is meant as an integral part of the landscape is the origin of the ideational concept of the work: the material is like “white canvas” which, by capturing the variation of light during the day and the seasonal changes, gives birth to constantly different perceptive formulas.  

This sculpture is conceived as a synthesis between artificial and natural elements: the vibrant ceramic wall is the symbol of a refined work of the intellect, whereas the surrounding space, including water surfaces and pebbles, is full of hints to a Zen garden, according to the typically Japanese vision in which nature and artificial interventions are the opposite – but not conflicting – ends of a constantly balanced and stimulating dialogue.

Mario Nanni later explained the conceptual guidelines that have inspired his works for over forty years and have been translated into his personal interpretation of light as a real building material, strictly functional to the qualification of architecture. In the case of “Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud”, Nanni developed the “Light in wind” project: by implementing the eight consolidated “rules” characterising his work – including the important role assigned to the 3D development of light in space, the role of shade and movement, the contrast between the presence and absence of light sources – Nanni decided to rise up to the challenge by passionately contributing to the creation of a work of great cultural importance, the result of a close collaboration between enlightened clients and exceptionally sensitive designers. Kengo Kuma was asked whether, during the planning stage, forecasts were made regarding the possible colour changes of the work owing to the weather and pollution. Kuma answered by stressing the intrinsic symbolical value of the colour white, connected to the concept of purity and expressed by the candid colour of the tiles which, since they are resilient and can be washed, unlike pebbles they will not undergo any formal change.


The official inauguration was held during the afternoon, which saw the speeches of the local authorities, client and designers, under the impressive frame structure created ad hoc to welcome the numerous visitors.

The inauguration of “CCCloud” provided an occasion for the local community to enjoy a preview of Kuma’s work inserted in the new Pedemontana road, an infrastructure playing a very important logistic and strategic role in the area which was strongly supported by Casalgrande Padana, to be completed shortly.
The Mayor of the Municipalityof Casalgrande, Andrea Rossi, on this occasion announced that Franco Manfredini will be awarded the honorary citizenship and handed the keys to the town


In the evening, after the speech by the CEO of Casalgrande Padana, the event “moved” to the roundabout hosting CCCloud, and Mario Nanni magically switched on the light system, accompanied by music among the numerous visitors who silently surrounded the circular space.

Then the Aterballetto dance company interpreted a choreography on site with classical and modern music, to add the finishing touch to an intense and rich day


Article: Chiara Testoni
Photo: Marco Introini Photography

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