Ceramics come from the land. That’s the message of Francesca Molteni’s sumptuous new video for Ceramics of Italy, which lovingly traces the long history – and continued evolution – of ceramic tile in the Mediterranean. Titled Ahead of Our Time, the immersive video campaign illuminates the spirit of innovation that makes Italy a global ceramic leader.
Through a combination of voiceover narration and sumptuous imagery, the video – directed by award-winning documentarian Francesca Molteni – draws a compelling aesthetic link between tile and terroir. Wherever Italian ceramics are used, a sense of place also permeates the design language itself. The forms, colours, textures, and motifs, of Italian ceramics are themselves inspired by the same landscapes from which the clay, water, and earthen elements are sourced.
The connection to the land is expressed not only in the materiality of ceramics, but also in their aesthetic qualities. From azure coastal waters and sandy beaches to Brunelleschi’s Florentine Duomo, the natural and built heritage of Italy continues to inspire ceramic design. But the message is hardly sentimental or nostalgic. While the rich history of Italian tile spans centuries and includes myriad iconic works of architecture, the manufacturing process – and accompanying design – is always being refined to perfection.
According to leading design historian Grace Jeffers, Ceramics of Italy continues to be a mark of excellence on the global stage. “Quality, as defined by performance, hand-feel and innovative design has long been what has differentiated Italian products from those produced elsewhere. While tile is made all over the world Italy still leads the market with these qualities.”
Moreover, Ceramics of Italy manufacturers continue to lead the way in new technologies – particularly advanced porcelain slabs and 3-D sculpted panels. “They are produced with minimum waste, maximum performance and what I call ‘design leadership,'” says Jeffers, adding that new Italian panels tend to be more “durable and easier to maintain” than their counterparts, and easier to replace. In short, “Italy produces and the rest of the world follows.”
In Toronto, the lasting appeal of Italian tiles is epitomized by the recent revitalization of Ryerson University’s Student ServiceHub. Designed by Gow Hastings, the project transformed a drab, lifeless space into a welcoming and light-filled new environment instantly popular with students.
“Italian tile was chosen for this project because of its high quality, beauty, and lengthened format. The Italian tiles used in the project have a unique colour, texture and lustre not found in other tiles,” says architect Valerie Gow, explaining that the porcelain floor tiles that run the entire span of the space “function as a wayfinding prompt to further indicate the different use zones, while their diagonal orientation gives the space a sense of movement.”
From the Mediterranean countryside to a cutting edge research university in Canada’s largest city, distinct aesthetic and material qualities make Italian tile a standout. Today, over 150 manufacturers are joined under the Ceramics of Italy banner, representing a tradition that draws inspiration from the landscape – and remains ahead of its time.
This content was published by Azure on behalf of Ceramics of Italy. More information about the Ahead of Our Time campaign is available here.
Francesca Molteni’s striking Ahead of Our Time video captures the beauty of the Italian landscape.