Friday
Apr052013

Just Because A Designer Can Draw It, Doesn’t Mean It’s a Good Idea: The challenges of innovative interior stone design

The process of fabricating and installing stone in commercial interiors has become very difficult. Designers and architects often ask us to do something with stone that we should not be doing. That comes from a lack of experience on the part of the design community.

When the economic crunch hit the construction industry, starting in 2008, most of the large, old firms were forced to lay off employees, in favor of new hires at a much lower pay scale.  The people with experience didn’t just gracefully bow out of the industry.  They were in one day and out the next.  In stepped the talented, but inexperienced people, especially in the use of rudimentary materials like stone.  Consequently, they're coming up with designs of things that we really shouldn't be doing.  

Do we really need to have 3/8ths of-an-inch strips of marble being laid up onto a wall?  That’s a concept worth discussing, but one that needs the input of the fabricator and installer to make sure it will function and last.

Then there are things we shouldn’t even consider doing.  A lot has to do with back lighting stone, mounting stone on glass so it can be backlit.  The problem? You can't use anchors!

There are all sorts of ideas fraught with complications.  We are being asked to break pieces because the design calls for narrow and long planks of stones. We've run into quite a few problems with that one. Now, we don’t really say, “no, we can't do that,” but, what we do say, “I think it would be much better if we did it this way. “ This is one example of how mock-ups, on or off-site, help to show people how their idea is likely to come out. It might be possible to do it for one piece of stone, but we're not going to be able to do it for a whole interior lobby with thousands of square feet.

We've learned through our years of experience working with architects and designers that stone is just one of those classic materials that was always meant to be used in a certain way. Now we have to rethink how the stone is being used, where, in what sizes and in all kinds of very complex configurations. In many ways, the interior has become almost as complex as the exterior.  For example, we never had to take into account wind loading or seismic conditions for building lobbies.  Now, practically every building we work in requires design calculations for the interior lobby stone as well as the exterior. That’s a very complex issue, but flash and pizazz is what separates the commercial interiors, so architects and designers who are more creative are the ones attracting clients and tenants to their buildings.  

And so, the tension between us will always remain. We just hope they’ll continue taking our advice, for both our sakes—and the client’s.

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