“Marmi Faedo – memory and innovation in marble”, published on Area n.119 (2012)
Text by Davide Cattaneo and photography by Ferdinando Sacco
“We bring the earth’s treasures to light”
“We bring the earth’s treasures to light”: this is what the company aims to do every day in its quarry in Cornedo Vicentino. A never-ending discovery of what nature has produced over time, with the passage of the centuries: not just an outstanding material, but an extraordinary wealth of memory, a key to interpretation of the transformations, history and changes that have affected the area. A wealth that must not be wasted, exploited, depleted. A precious resource to be used with care, protected and, if possible, reinforced so that future generations will be able to enjoy it. Marble: a material that is both ancient and contemporary, traditional and innovative, noble and versatile; a unique material to take into the future.
Memory and innovation in marble
«We need to explore the quarry, get to know it, respect it and live in it». This is the “secret” Alessandro Faedo, owner of Marmi Faedo S.p.A. reveals as we tour his Grolla marble quarry, on a mountain not far from the company’s headquarters. Our guide moves easily over the uneven ground, perfectly at ease among big blocks of marble and stone thanks to his perfect familiarity with this magical place, which always fascinates us and inspires unique thoughts and emotions. An evocative place where we truly feel small before nature, as if we are just temporarily passing through history; a difficult and sometimes hostile place which conveys a clear message of how only hard work and skill allow us to make the most of what nature offers us.
In Cornedo Vicentino time has left behind clear traces through a rich, complex stratigraphy starting way back in the Middle Eocene, the epoch of the Formation of Grolla marble. A sequence of material of surprising extent and variety, with the presence, after the first four metres of depth occupied by rubble (rejected material), of a vein 30m thick alternating 12m of pink “Grolla rosato” marble, 6m of yellow Grolla paglierino marble and another 12m of Grolla rosato.
All Marmi Faedo-Faba Marmi’s work is based on the quarry, and it is here that the company concentrates its maximum productive efforts. Only perfect management of this source of resources, which is unfortunately finite and will be depleted it not used correctly, permits planning of ongoing, diversified activity capable of satisfying today’s requirements while looking towards the future, with a view to development, transformation and modification of the site. It is important to be familiar with the characteristics of the soil, the differences between the materials making it up, their behaviour when extracted and subjected to atmospheric agents, weather conditions and mechanical processing. It is important to be perfectly familiar with the material, assess its performance and characteristics, and imagine and verify the different ways it can be used. It is essential to have a complete overview of the quarry, to know where to extract stone and where to leave it unaltered for a while, to decide where to take top quality marble blocks from and where to quarry less valuable material. Only experience can complete this all-round knowledge, only in this way can one understand where to cut, where to “offend” the mountain…
«We need to explore the quarry, get to know it, respect it and live in it» – Alessandro Faedo, Marmi Faedo S.p.A.
Not all the blocks of stone that come out of the quarry are the same size. The biggest, best quality blocks are squared off and cut into slabs, but are also used to produce less valuable materials for different but equally important functions. “Pulverised” stone is used to make roads, railways and dykes, and is sent to cement factories for inclusion in their productive cycle.
Its low water absorption coefficient and good resistance to atmospheric agents make it frost-resistant, unlike other stone materials which may crack, and unaffected by marine air, which can harm the technical and mechanical properties of some materials. Low water absorption, resistance to aging caused by SO2 in the presence of humidity and chemical resistance to swimming pool salts (Class UA) and to salt crystallisation make Grolla the perfect marble for outdoor use. Resistance to scratching and to bending and compression make it particularly suitable for use as a material For floors, ventilated facework and facework applied using adhesive, swimming pools and waterfront paths.
Grolla marble is highly versatile, suitable for all kinds of surface treatments including flaming, sanding and brushing, and available in colours ranging from beige to various shades of pink down to deep pink. Its excellent technical and mechanical properties, available in four varieties of marble (Grolla polished, Grolla rosato polished, Grolla venato polished and Grolla filettato polished) with six different finishes make Grolla marble a particularly versatile material offering architects a vast range of creative possibilities in terms of both tactile performance and refined colour combinations.
A historic material, demonstrated by several works such as the columns of Piazza dei Signori in Vicenza and a building in Campo San Luca in Venice; a highly relevant material which is applied in prestigious architectural projects today such as the flooring of the pavement “il Liston” of Piazza Bra in Verona, the ventilated facades of Palazzo della Regione in Udine, the flooring of the Cité Internationale in Lyon, the facade covering of the Sheraton Hotel in AIgeri, the residential buildings of Palazzo Venezia in Viale Majno and of Via Savona 103 in Milano, the Church of Grassobbio (BG).
Blocks of marble extracted from the quarry are squared off directly on the site with a new 3.50 metre horizontal saw which can easily cut even such a strong material into slabs 4 cm thick. The horizontal saw, in addition to the excavator and trucks, are the only machines used in the quarry; this allows to dramatically reduce noise and, in general, the emissions of pollutants. The workers’ skill and experience makes it possible to optimise the time/machine ratio for a continuous workflow.
It is essential to have a complete overview of the quarry, to know where to extract stone and where to leave it unaltered for a while, to decide where to take top quality marble blocks from and where to quarry less valuable material.
But quarry management is not simply a matter of excavating of stone. Their transportation must be planned, optimising links with the workshop where they will be processed, using routes which are easy enough to use in the country’s infrastructure grid and guaranteeing a continuous flow of materials to the processing areas, especially in the case of special supplies and requests to be met in a short time.
All the operations to be performed on the blocks take place in the plant downstream: cutting and sizing of the slabs, surface finishes, special treatments. The vast range of possible processes allows the company to respond to the many different requirements of today’s architecture in terms of both aesthetic/formal features and performance. From flaming, an operation based on the thermal shock caused by a flame followed by rapid cooling of the slab of stone, to bush hammering, a mechanical process creating a rough, rustic surface, to polishing, sanding and brushing.
Ancient processes and operations are continually renewed by the evolution of technology, translating into introduction of new machines, new sequences and timing and new goals: Marmi Faedo works on and transforms different types of material, Italian and imported marbles, thanks to the high productive capacity and advanced technology of its production lines, which can handle projects of significant complexity, value and dimensions.
Starting with the initial activity at extraction, the company has developed a greater and greater range of skills and lines of business over time. It now supplies customers with a vast range of services: from custom-designed finished work to technical and design consultancy, from on-site assistance to installation by specialised workers.
If Grolla marble is to continue being on important reference in the future too, in historical renovation projects and contemporary architecture protects, a privileged material and a resource for architects and designers, the quarry must not be depleted excessively. Marmi Faedo-Faba Marmi has a thorough land reclamation project, already approved by the Region, for restoration of the mountain as quarrying proceeds. This will preserve the environment and allow the company to continue with its activity while preserving the site’s natural properties wherever possible and assessing new potential for development at the quarry which may have a lesser impact, such as excavating in tunnels. Projects, attention and concrete ideas to “feed” the history, tradition and culture of a unique, inimitable material.