HOUSE OF STONE - MILAN
On the occasion of the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair, John Pawson sought to construct a stone house at the Milan Università Statale. The structure was sliced along the ridge and through the mid-section to allow light to enter. Even though the House of Stone was just an installation, the complexity of the design transformed it into a truly challenging construction and research project for the entire team.
The first difficulty involved trying to get the roof, which was clad both internally and externally in stone, to stay up without using any loadbearing structures and with two cross-shaped cuts.
Thanks to both the engineering planning and the contribution of members of our technical department with backgrounds in mechanics and structural steelwork, we were able to come up with a steel structure which, with some ingenious jointing, allowed the weight to be supported on the perimeter walls. With the help of computer software, we were able to simulate the bending of the steel that would result from the load of the stone on the roof. In this way we discovered that this bending would have caused the points at the tip of the cross to almost touch each other and so we designed a rather particularly engineered structure. We also decided to reduce the thickness of the stone to 9 mm.
With the thickness of the stone being reduced considerably, this posed another challenge: how to anchor the slabs, as they were too thin to be attached in the usual way.
We therefore invented a system that we subsequently patented: we glued high performance magnets to the stone. Each magnet had a maximum tear-off force of 25 kg per square centimetre and with 6 of these for each slab, the pieces stayed firmly attached to the steel structure. As the characteristics of magnets are immutable over time, this represents a great step forward in installation systems. The solutions resulted in an installation that was the talk of that year’s fair and a delighted John Pawson who continues today to involve us in the study and realisation of all his new projects requiring the use of natural stone.