Fractile is the name of the collection of tiles designed by architect Daniel Libeskind in collaboration with Casalgrande Padana. As the name itself suggests, the original idea that gave birth to these tiles – which are made in porcelain stoneware using a three-dimensional matrix – is fractal mathematics. According to Wikipedia, a fractal is:
[…] a geometrical object featuring internal homothety: it replicates itself in the same way on different scales, thus when you enlarge any part of it you obtain a similar shape to the original.
It may seem like a complex concept, but it feels incredibly familiar when you look at the famous Julia Set or, much more commonly, the harmonious shaping nature has conferred to Romanesco broccoli buds.
So it is this concept of infinite forms that provided the inspiration for Fractile. Working together, Daniel Libeskind and Casalgrande Padana blended the boundaries of creativity and mathematics to create a simply unique collection of ceramic tiles, which were first used as part of the Pinnacle installation. Designed by Daniel Libeskind on behalf of Casalgrande Padana for Bologna Water Design 2013, a cladding of metallic porcelain stoneware tiles was used to cover a structure situated in the 17th-century Cortile del Priore dell’ex Maternità and devised to pay tribute to the radical verticality of medieval Bologna, with its historic towers and buildings.
The big debut for the Fractile collection of ceramic tiles, however, came two years later at Expo Milano 2015. Thanks to the experience and brilliance of the Casalgrande Engineering division – alongside the design expertise of Studio Daniel Libeskind – the Vanke Pavilion was born (you can read an article about it on this very blog). The cladding of a structure with such a complex and fluid form was made possible tanks to a special cage that allowed us to fix the tiles in place, but also to individually position them and overlap them according to the design. As part of the Vanke project, Casalgrande Padana supplied other tiles – not three-dimensional this time, but with a design inspired by the unique Fractile pattern – for use inside the pavilion itself.
These tiles and their three-dimensional design also took centre stage in another important project in 2015, one with perhaps an even closer bond to the Casalgrande Padana brand. Fractile tiles were used to encase the structure of an imposing landmark again designed by the ingenious Daniel Libeskind and located on one of the roundabouts marking the entrance to the Casalgrande Padana production facilities and headquarters. The project was named CCCrown – Casalgrande Ceramic Crown – and designed to create a symbolic counterpart to its sister work CCCloud – Casalgrande Ceramic Cloud. You can read an article about the work here.
Of course, this is only the beginning of the road for these ceramic tiles and their three-dimensional design, but the official Studio Daniele Libeskind website already has photographs and images featuring buildings and other works enhanced by the presence of Fractile tiles. Indeed, according to the Studio Daniel Libeskind website:
The Fractile tile series designed for Casalgrande Padana combines state-of-the-art technology with legendary Italian ceramic technique to produce a revolutionary material. The geometric tile not only creates an expressive pattern that can be applied to a variety of surfaces, it also possesses surprising sustainable properties.
The words seem to conceal the innate magic of the mathematics of the fractals, where the whole is identical to every component part and, at the same time, every part is the whole. This almost philosophical concept goes some way to describing the essence of beauty, architecture, design themselves. It is an invisible, mathematical, infinite bond that brings all works created using Fractile tiles together in one great work.