The Tile Culture of Spain

Replete with cultural connotations in music, art, and design, Spain is a country immensely gifted. One of its thriving trade is its resplendent tile manufacturing industry. We were recently invited by Tile of Spain to Valencia, the design capital of the country, to experience some of the most beautiful and innovative architecture, craft and products deeply entrenched in the Spanish tile culture.

Tile of Spain is the international brand that represents 125 of Spain’s best ceramic tile manufacturers. The organisation belongs to the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers’ Association (ASCER), and is an active participant in promoting the design culture of Spain. As our hosts in Valencia, through Tile of Spain we were given a glimpse of their tile industry, one that is so ingrained into Spanish history  that it has become a fabric of the culture of this country.

The Tile of Spain Architecture and Interior Design Awards

The awards were a culmination of a ongoing competition to improve awareness and understanding of ceramic tiles. Organised by ASCER, the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers’ Association for the Tile of Spain Awards of Architecture and Interior Design, the prize categories included best Architecture and Interior design as well as a Degree Project category to encourage students at advanced technical schools of architecture.

We spoke with architect Miguel Alonso Flamarique, Founder of of MRM Architectos, on his winning design for the Valencia Construction Sector Employment Foundation Headquarters. The project, built with large format Porcelanosa tiles formed the quintessential feature of the building, enveloping the entire facade and weaving through the interiors and spilling on furniture. The use of these tiles in such an industrial format proved to be the right choice for a training centre that would see heavy use of construction equipment and machinery, and therefore needed surfaces that could withstand extreme wear and tear.

The Headquarters are situated amidst a landscape of olive fields and fruit trees with the mountain range as a perfect backdrop to the minimalistic design. Independent, single storey, modular structures are united by a series of exterior pathways and pergolas creating unity with nature.

Inside Porcelanosa

The Porcelanosa factory, offices and showroom space are a perfect example of a high functioning mini city. Following our trip to the winning architecture project, the next destination was to experience firsthand how the tiles that we experienced came into being.

The brand is a world class manufacturer of ceramic tiles, specialising in single-fired porous, stoneware, and porcelain wall and floor tiles in an extensive variety of formats and finishes. One visit to their outstanding factory and manufacturing facilities make it evident that this is a brand that stands out for their high-tech, innovative design, quality and discipline to the craft.

We had the pleasure of experiencing the birth of a tile from complete raw material through to firing, glazing and end product. The entire facility is automated and runs like clockwork, which in itself is fascinating to watch. Even more gratifying is to see the end result in their newly renovated showroom space that showcases the use of tile in various interior scenarios, from residential to F&B and hospitality. One of the best showrooms that we have experienced in a while from a pure design and elegance standpoint. What really stood out was the way all the spaces and scenarios were tied together and revolved around a central, enclosed courtyard with skylights and greenery, exuding a peaceful nature vibe.

Some of the very best in Spanish tile design and manufacturing

The tile brands that were introduced to us as visitors to Valencia were carefully selected based on quality, design style, and diversity of approaches to tile making and the business of tiles. From large scale operations like Porcelanosa, Grespania and Vives, to family owned and generations old manufacturers, such as Cevica, the collage was a perfect palette of tasters to the tile culture of Spain.

Cevica emerged from a family idea with an artisan character and passion for growing and evolving. Today, under the guidance of its founder’s sons, the brand offers an interesting mix between tradition and avant-garde. What is clearly evident is the heart that still very much beats at the centre – employees that have been there for decades and are very much family to the owners, who all work as one to create and improvise. As CEO Raul Carnicer explains, the people behind this brand treat tile making as very much an art form. Their focus is on innovation and custom design, and not necessarily mass production, almost like a niche yet international brand. And their work is steeped in vivid hues, beautiful design and craft, and our favourite, the lab where they mix and create and innovate.

A 45 year old company, Grespania is an international brand continuously working on the latest advances and best practices in the design and manufacturer of ceramic tiles. And this upholding of the highest standards is evident from their products and their showroom in Valencia. Particularly the attention to detail and subtlety in their design and craft that can only come from great control and precision plus elegance in creation. Grespania currently has three factories producing porcelain stoneware flooring, white body wall tiles, and large-format porcelain laminate. The brand has logistics centers in Spain with subsidiaries in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom.

A stark contrast to the modern and muted, or craft based colours of the former brands, Apavisa dives into nature with veracity. The tiles, large format for heightened effect, are bursting with swirls of colour and texture that wholly encompass nature in its full palette. Marbling, speckling, bold formats and rich tones create a wonderful and intense showroom experience. The brand has a presence in 100 countries, and its use of state-of-the-art technologies, and the vastness of its portfolio in terms of colours, textures and finishes, allows Apavisa to cover the creative needs of today’s contemporary architecture and innovative design.

Bestille was a brand that really held the element of surprise. As we were introduced to their spaces through a serene courtyard equipped with soft hued tiles and pastel and green landscaping, never did one expect to enter the indoor showrooms and be hit by a riot of colours and retro patterns. At once whimsical, outspoken and shamelessly paying homage to some of the greatest artists of our time, Bestille has taken the craft of tile creation to another level, worthy of an exhibit. The brand was a pioneer in the use of Inkjet technology and the 30 mm thickness tile, and has remained a continuous award winner in its innovation and use of decorative tile techniques.

Our long and not at all arduous journey through Spanish tile country culminated at Vives, which we could say with absolute certainty was an ending on a high note. This recently renovated, stunning display space is worthy of a case study unto its own. The brand’s efforts in R&D have resulted in quality ceramic products with the most unique, on trend designs that are elegant, avant-garde and exclusive. Vives has constantly adapted to new technologies and adapted advanced production systems, as is evident from its catalogue of products on display. What’s more, the brand is also committed to environmental policies through EcoVives, wholeheartedly embracing the cause of sustainable and ethical design and production. Their experience centre is an explosion of creativity and innovation, yes the occasional pieces, such as their first kiln, and a classic car, offers an ode to its fifty years of tile making expertise.

Our week in Valencia: A pictorial summary

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Date added:

12 July, 2022

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