As a cladding material, architectural detail, hard landscaping, interior, or even roofing material, stone has it all. Architects will be able to see for themselves at the Natural Stone Show, which is taking place in London’s ExCeL from 30 April to 2 May
Nothing makes an architectural statement quite like stone. Its solidity is a perfect counterpoint to glass and steel, adding colour and shadow highlights. It is not by accident that so much stone can be seen on the world’s most prestigious buildings. At the Natural Stone Show you will see stone in all its sustainable, hardwearing, resilient variety, from indigenous sandstones, limestones and slates to ornamental marbles, granites and semi-precious onyx from all over the world. For the first time this year, the Stone Show is co-locating with Hard Surfaces, because these days the stone industry has extended its repertoire with a variety of innovative, engineered products that have extended its pallet still further. These are products from companies such as CRL Stone, Caesarstone, Quartzforms, Sapienstone, Ceramiche Keope, Ceramica Fondovalle, Pyro + Echo, Infinity, Stone Italiana, Porcelain Slabs, Nerostein, and many others.
As well as the exhibitors themselves, there is a feature highlighting 135 of the latest innovations curated by MaterialDistrict, which is a leading ‘match-making’ platform for ground-breaking materials. These are hard surfaces at the cutting edge which will inspire designers and fabricators. There are also galleries of the award-winning projects in both the Natural Stone Awards and the Tile Awards to demonstrate just what can be achieved in natural and engineered stone. In Hard Surfaces new materials will occupy their own exhibition space but will be alongside more British stone than ever in the Natural Stone Show, from companies stamping their authority on the indigenous stone industry – Albion Stone, Lovell Stone Group, Johnston Quarry Group, Stamford Stone Company, Johnsons Wellfield Quarries, Welsh Slate, Bath Stone Group and others. Even the familiar Portland limestone, from which much of London is built, can produce an occasional surprise and Albion, which extracts it, has just come across an Ostrea Patch Reef Whitbed in one of its mines. It is in limited supply and is being sold as a premium product reserved for particularly discerning customers on the finest of projects. Of course, while many projects use indigenous stones, even more use imported stones, many of which these days come from India and China, although Europe also supplies a proportion. You will find plenty of examples of stone from all over the world at the Natural Stone Show. There will be a good selection of exhibitors from Chinese and Indian pavilions – some familiar, some hoping to break into the market. And European stone has been enjoying a renaissance in the UK of late, particularly, but not exclusively, its marbles. One reason is a growing appreciation of the shorter lead times of stone supplied from Europe compared with the Far East.
Italy, Spain and Portugal have all enjoyed an increase in exports to the UK. One of the Portuguese companies exhibiting at the Natural Stone Show, Aire Limestones has even joined Stone Federation Great Britain in order to assist it to penetrate the market in the UK and Ireland. That technology will also be on show at the exhibition, from leading international manufacturers such as Breton, Intermac, Omag, Thibaut, Prussiani, Comandulli, and more, as well as the latest developments in products for fixing, sealing, cleaning, and otherwise maintaining natural and engineered stones from companies such as Lithofin, Ardex, Fila, Kerakoll, Raimondi, Schluter, Stone Care Europe and Trimline Group To help the industry’s professionals get a more complete and satisfying understanding of what can be a mind-boggling plethora of products and services on offer, the first day of the Natural Stone Show is Architects’ Day, hosted by international stone expert Vince Marazita from Stone Trends International. This RIBA-accredited workshop explores the conceptual advantages of stone design through a series of case studies delivered by stone consultants and architects. As well as explaining how to get the most from designing and specifying stone, there is also a guided tour of the Show to highlight some of the materials and processes the industry offers and a complimentary sit-down lunch to network at.
Building professionals can register at bit.ly/architectsday In total around 50 seminars are available over the three days.