For his first project in Italy, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma wanted to pull a cloud down from the sky as a monument to an area of Italy known for its ceramics. “A classic monument is very static,” he said in an interview. “A cloud in the sky is always moving… (I wanted it) to be an artificial cloud.”
In 2010, Kengo Kuma and Associates built The Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud from ceramic tile and installed it in a traffic roundabout in Casalgrande, Italy. The ceramics manufacturer Casalgrande Padana of Reggio Emilia commissioned the project. The architect wanted to avoid tile’s conventional use as “mere cladding.” Instead, the tiles are the building blocks of a complex screen which changes character as viewers drive around it.
The firm’s projects typically work with concepts of anti-dimension or anti-volume, and those concepts take on new forms when they’re paired with dynamics such as time, movement, perception, weather, and light. The Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud shifts from a simple vertical gesture, slight in volume, to a fully extended 45 meter permeable wall as viewers circumnavigate it by car. Though the object is static, Kengo Kuma’s design leverages the dynamic action of the viewer in his attempt to pull that “always moving” cloud from the sky.
Before the monument was completed, Kengo Kuma engaged with the concepts and forms of the Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud in a large scale installation in the courtyard of Milan’s Università Statale. The installation featured an evanescent, organza curtain separating two ideal gardens – both similar and different. One consisted of white ceramic tiles and the other of marble cobble. As the sun set on the installation, imagery that included models of The Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud was projected onto the curtains, while other projections mapped directly onto the tiles and stones on the ground. Through light, the piece was both a direct and indirect engagement with the forms of the Casalgrande tile used in the monument.The installation is captured below in a video by StudioVisuale, a charming and abstract tribute.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile.
Above image: Kengo Kuma and Associates, Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud, 2010. Casalgrande, Italy. Ceramic tile. Courtesy of Kengo Kuma and Associates.
Explore all angles of Kengo Kuma and Associates’ Ceramic Cloud in a traffic roundabout in Casalgrande, Italy. Video by Casalgrande Padana.
A video projection of the The Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud over an installation of organza and stones by Kengo Kuma in a courtyard in Milan’s Università Statale. Video by StudioVisuale.