Toyo Ito, Hon. FAIA, addresses international media before his keynote address at this year's Cersaie ceramic tile and bath fittings trade show.
Hallie Busta Toyo Ito, Hon. FAIA, addresses international media before his keynote address at this year's Cersaie ceramic tile and bath fittings trade show.

ARCHITECT’s fourth and final day at Cersaie, the international ceramic tile trade show held this week in Bologna, Italy, featured a keynote address by the 2013 Pritzker laureate, Toyo Ito, Hon. FAIA, who leads the Tokyo-based global firm Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects. Known for creating spaces that bridge the built and natural environments, Ito presented his firm's completed and forthcoming projects as contemporary examples for designers who seek an alternative to the prevalent glass-and-steel construction.

Among the projects was Ito's 2011 Home-for-All,  a series of minimally outfitted houses that served as a temporary shelter and meeting spot for residents of the Tohoku region of Japan following the March 2011 tsunami (the project was cited by the Pritzker jury as an example of the architect's social responsibility). Home-for-All is framed with timbers sourced from cedar trees felled by the storm. “Lightness is [achieved by] how you use the materials,” Ito told reporters before his talk to the general public.

Elsewhere at Cersaie, manufacturers are continuing to emulate wood and other natural materials in ceramic, as we have seen in previous tradeshows such as Cevisama 2013. Designers are often divided on the practice of using one material to achieve the look of another, particularly if the latter is organic material. Such has been the case for ceramic wood. The material is often picked over conventional hardwoods due to the project’s budget and ceramic’s ability to withstand high-traffic commercial spaces, but without the tendency to rot and warp like wood. At Cersaie, we saw no shortage of the stuff. Here are a few favorites:

Italian studio 41 Zero 42 replicated the look of charred wood as it is typically achieved through the Japanese technique of carbonizing planks. The studio used porcelain whose color is high-definition digitally printed and features a rectified surface. Yaki is offered in 6"-by-48" and 6"-by-12" planks in four neutral colors and a natural and glossy finish.

Worn wood planks have made their mark on the walls and floors, encouraging manufacturers like Ceramica Sant’Agostino to explore new forms. The company’s BlendArt flooring is offered in up to 3'-square, 10mm-thick (0.4"-thick) dimensions and constructed of porcelain, merging the rustic look of worn wood with the performance of a ceramic. The tiles’ surface has a rectified wood grain and is available in a gray (shown), natural, and dark finish as well as in mixed colorways.

Emil Ceramica replicates the saturated, natural hues of finished hardwood with a subtly textured surface in Millelegni, a series of high-definition printed planks comprising species such as gray ash, larch, oak from countries including France, Japan, Canada, Scotland, and Italy. Offered in 47" lengths and approximately 6", 8", and 12" lengths, the planks can be used indoors and outdoors.

Read up on our week in Bologna to learn about the latest in designer–manufacturer collaborations (here and here) and the ongoing trend of new geometric forms for tile.