Casalgrande Padana and Kengo Kuma unveil Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud
“As regards my architecture, I don’t feel the need to make unique works. I prefer to work thinking that what I do could disappear one day. Even if I can’t erase architecture completely, I believe that an attitude that respects sweetness, humans, the environment, and nature can only lead to different outcomes.” Kengo Kuma
Think you’ll feel as light as a cloud when you turn 50? Well that’s exactly what happened to us here at Casalgrande Padana when we marked our 50th birthday by unveiling the first ever work produced in Italy by Japanese master Kengo Kuma. It’s a work that strikes the perfect balance between lightness and impact, something that feels ethereal and delicate yet solid and tangible all at once. The unusual, innovative 3D structure explores new ways of using porcelain stoneware tiles, creating an architectural work of sophisticated elegance. Its aim? To become synonymous with an area with strong manufacturing traditions and a deep bond with design and innovation culture.
CCCloud is entirely made with special large-sized porcelain stoneware tiles fixed mechanically to a metal framework specifically designed for this purpose. This project experiments for the first time with the structural use of ceramic material. The three-dimensional structure consists of nine levels of stacked technical porcelain stoneware elements positioned vertically and held together by concealed steel threaded bars. Each ceramic element is made by coupling two standard tiles and interposing special metal connection and fastening inserts, which ensure suitable static performance.
Anyone travelling past the Casalgrande Padana production complex on the Pedemontana road will spy this spectacular landmark rising up like a slender thread among the Reggio Emilia countryside and its rolling green hills. Kengo Kuma’s first work in Italy is a symbolic structure that aims to position itself as the western access route to the Emilia Romagna ceramic district. Positioned along the vanishing point of the road, CCCloud stands on the roundabout in front of the Casalgrande Padana complex and is surrounded by a man-made pond, which reflects and multiplies its image. The water is then surrounded by white stones, underlining the abstract feel of the work. CCCloud stretches for 45 metres in length and stands around 7 metres tall. In plan view, it appears long and tapered at the ends. The middle section has a maximum thickness equal to 1.7 metres.
The project is the result of an agreement between Casalgrande Padana, who bore the financial, design and construction costs of the initiative, and the municipality of Casalgrande. The monument was donated to the community and enhances the value of the quintessentially Italian landscape that surrounds the production complex.
The innovative aspects of this project and the adoption of unconventional construction solutions necessitated Casalgrande Padana’s active participation in the design and execution stages through a continuous exchange of expertise and advice. An interactive process of ongoing sophisticated tests saw the Italian and Japanese professional teams communicate remotely, while Casalgrande Padana’s in-house experts prepared numerous prototypes to allow the various components and construction of the monument to be perfected.
In addition to Kengo Kuma and his team, a significant contribution towards the creation of CCCloud was made by Italian universities, in particular Professor Alfonso Acocella, from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Ferrara, and Professor Luigi Alini, from the Syracuse Faculty of Architecture of the University of Catania. Both Acocella and Alini have been commissioned by Casalgrande Padana as part of wider research into ceramic materials. University representatives played an important role in terms of mediating between the client, the architectural project team, the structural engineers and the lighting designers, who were coordinated by Mario Nanni for Viabizzuno.
Kengo Kuma is born in Kanagawa, Japan, in 1954. In 1979, Kuma graduates in Architecture from the University of Tokyo and in 1985-86 he works as a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University. In 1990, he founds Kengo Kuma & Associates in Aoyama, Tokyo. Between 2001 and 2008, he works as a researcher in the Department of Science and Technology at the Keio University.
In 2009, he is appointed as a professor at the University of Tokyo. The following quote encapsulates his architectural style: “I don’t feel the need to make unique works. I prefer to work thinking that what I do could disappear one day. Even if I can’t erase architecture completely, I believe that an attitude that respects sweetness, humans, the environment, and nature can only lead to different outcomes.”
His main works include: Kirosan Observatory (1995), Water/Glass House (1995, winner of the AIA Benedictus Award), the Design space for the Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1995), Stage in Forest-Toyoma Center for Performance Arts (1997, winner of the of the Architectural Institute of Japan's annual award), Stone Museum (2000, winner of the 2001 International Stone Architecture Award), Nakagawa-machi Bato Hiroshige Museum of Art (2001, winner of the Murano award).
His more recent works include: Great Bamboo Wall (2002, Beijing, China); Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum (2005, Nagasaki, Japan); Ginzan Onsen Fujiya (2006, Obanazawa, Yamagata, Japan); Suntory Museum of Art (2007, Tokyo, Japan); The Opposite House (2008, Beijing, China); Nezu Museum (2009, Tokyo).
In Italy, he created the Stone Card Castle Pavilion for Marmomacc 2007 (Verona), as well as the “Kengo Kuma Two Carps: Water/Land-Village/Urban Phenomenology” exhibition for the Barbara Capocchin Architecture Biennale, 2007 award (Padua). His ongoing projects include the Masterplan for Manifattura Domani in Rovereto (Trento) and the Cavamarket headquarters in Cava dei Tirreni, while Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud in Casalgrande (Reggio Emilia) has just been completed. Kuma is also working on a number of large-scale projects, including the Besançon Art Centre in France, the Granada Performing Arts Centre in Spain and the Sanlitun District in Beijing. Kuma has won a number of important international awards, including the International Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award (2002, Finland), the international Best New Global Design architecture award for the Chokkura Plaza and Shelter (2007) and the Energy Performance+ Architecture award (2008, France).
Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud
Video Aterballetto. Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud
Interview with Kengo Kuma. Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud.
CCCloud di Kengo Kuma. Produzione e costruzione dell'opera