A well-loved stone de­vel­ops flex­i­bil­ity.


A well-loved stone de­vel­ops flex­i­bil­ity.

Mar­ble has been used for mil­len­nia as a build­ing and art ma­te­rial, and while it has been the medium of mon­u­men­tal works – the Parthenon, the Taj Ma­hal the sculp­tures of Michelangelo – the method of shap­ing it, up to to­day’s floor tiles and coun­ter­tops, has largely re­mained the same. The stone is chis­elled or sliced, and one wrong move could spell ir­re­versible dam­age.

It was cer­tainly a costly les­son for Peter Ti­joe, Cre­ative Direc­tor of In­done­sia-based mar­ble pur­veyor MM Gal­leri, who al­most went bank­rupt af­ter ac­ci­den­tally shat­ter­ing a stock of mar­ble ta­ble tops. Learn­ing from the dis­as­ter, he would add steel plates in be­tween thin­ner slabs of mar­ble for re­in­force­ment. It was then that he dis­cov­ered the stone’s limited but ex­is­tent mal­leabil­ity: With the steel back­ing, some pres­sure can be ap­plied to the mar­ble sheet with­out it break­ing.

He then tested the lim­its of that bend­abil­ity. The method, which Ti­joe per­fected last year, in­volves heat­ing a 1mm mar­ble sheet, then slowly mould­ing it into shape. To pre­vent it from crack­ing, a chem­i­cal is added to the sur­face of the stone. The tech­nique can also be used on other hard stones, such as gran­ite and onyx. Says Ti­joe: “The re­sult is a sheet we can use like wall­pa­per to ap­ply on any­thing, in any con­fig­u­ra­tion.” Such ap­pli­ca­tion is un­prece­dented.

To prove a point, Ti­joe cre­ated a mar­ble cave in his Chin Bee Av­enue show­room in Sin­ga­pore by ap­ply­ing sheets of white stone from wall to ceil­ing (above). He also cre­ated spindly mar­ble chairs and ta­bles – ac­tu­ally steel struc­tures wrapped in thin stone sheets. “These pieces are struc­turally im­pos­si­ble if carved from mar­ble blocks, simply be­cause of the stone’s weight. The thin legs would break,” says Ti­joe.

The tech­nique has caught the at­ten­tion of other de­sign­ers. Last year’s Mai­son & Ob­jet de­sign fair in Paris saw In­done­sian de­signer Jef­frey Budi­man us­ing the process to cre­ate a lamp with in­tri­cate twists of pink onyx. The tech­nique could very well spell a new genre of de­sign.

02 02 The use of steel frames al­lows de­sign­ers to by­pass struc­tural lim­i­ta­tions. The thin legs of this ta­ble would break if they were carved from stone. The mar­ble veins are care­fully matched by ar­ti­sans to give the il­lu­sion of con­ti­nu­ity.

01 Dubbed the “Float­ing G” by Ti­joe, this ta­ble ap­pears to be one solid piece of stone that de­fies the law of physics. In ac­tu­al­ity, it is a steel frame with a heavy foot, cov­ered en­tirely with slices of black gran­ite. 01

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