by Lira Luis, AIA, RIBA, LEED AP
When the folks at Tile of Spain told me to pack my bags for the “Reign in Spain” Architecture and Design Tour, a new a new CEU education program, to represent the U.S. Architecture and Design community (you can follow our group’s trajectory into Spain via Twitter, @TileofSpain/reign-in-spain-2011), I was more than excited to learn about a new trends in tile. Ceramic, natural stone, and bathroom design are converging, provoking the A&D community to think about these elements as “much more, as a part of you,” perhaps like “your skin.” Let me digress…
Tile as a Mark of Quality
As an alumna of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, I remember vividly the first time I set foot at Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s summer home located in Spring Green, Wisc. (The 600-acre property—which is one of America’s most significant historical treasures, and a fantastic example of organic architecture, will reach a milestone in 2011 with the 100th anniversary since its construction—serves as the summer headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.) One of the first things I noticed was a red tile embedded on a prominent wall at the exterior of the building. That was how I discovered Frank Lloyd Wright’s mark—he used a ceramic tile inscribed with the letters “FLLW” to signify his seal of approval on the quality of workmanship of his buildings. All truly and totally original Wright buildings would come to carry this tile. I wondered about the probable reasons behind his selection of this specific building material to use as a symbol for his approval…
Ceramic tile has been a popular building material for over 4,000 years. It played a prominent role in the history of building construction from the oldest pyramids in Egypt to the tile mosaics of Spain. In the past, the technique of tile making was hand-formed and hand-painted making each piece a true work of art in itself. In a similar fashion, the red square tile that Wright used seems to carry these artful characteristics—a customized pattern formed from his own handwriting. In a way, the art of tile making and the way Wright designed and constructed his buildings parallel each other such that the master architect transfers the techniques of the architecture trade to his apprentices, also known as the Taliesin Fellowship. The red tile symbolized a part of him.
Have you discovered the right tile for your mark? As I continue on my trip, journeying next week to Zaragoza, Teruel, and Valencia, I look forward to the opportunities to search for the right tile to make my own mark that will truly represent a part of me and my architecture.
Cevisama 2011, an international ceramic tile and bath furnishings show, will be held in Valencia, Spain from February 8-11, 2011. http://cevisama.feriavalencia.com