Stone is a building material whose use has accompanied the course of the history of Western architecture, leaving a particularly profound imprint on the Mediterranean area. The origins of stone architecture are found in the Egyptian period, when for the first time they began to quarry the stone for construction purposes, the same ancient civilizations will then erect imposing monumental complexes that in many cases have persisted up to our times.
It can be demonstrated that “Stone” material has always been current over time, given that its use has never known "down times". A very significant part of the archetypal forms currently still recurrent in constructions (even those made with non-stone materials) derive from the use of stone; no other material has been able to establish such a close and reciprocal relationship with the culture of peoples.
Baptismal font of Saint Peter in Ancient Red Porphyry - Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome - Vatican State
The story goes that the sepulchres of Nero and Settimo Severo were made of porphyry as also the most important parts of the imperial palaces of Diocletian and Constantine. The porphyry used in the following eras came from the ruins of the Roman palaces, as it occurred for the construction of the Sicilian rulers’ tomb monuments. Even the baptismal font of Saint Peter in Rome is the porphyry slab that covered the funerary monument of Otto II, overturned and processed in the seventeenth century. Giorgio Vasari speaks of porphyry in his work "Dell'Architettura", the author highlighted its hardness capable of putting a strain on Renaissance sculptors' instruments, even with the likes of Leon Battista Alberti and Michelangelo Buonarroti. R. Gnoli reports that: ".. to the prestige and charm of porphyry we finally have the choice of stone used for the immense sarcophagus of Napoleon, under the Dôme des Invalides". In Trentino porphyry was first used as a building stone and later as a roof covering layer for buildings, using coarsely processed and thin slabs. The first cube pavings date back to the last decades of the 1800s, with the opening of the first quarries in the province of Bolzano. In the 1900s, the evolution and multiplication of companies interested in the extraction and processing of porphyry, together with the expansion of the market, led to a very strong increase in production, as well as to a progressive improvement of the extraction equipment and methods.
Il manuale del porfido Paolo Tomnio e Fiorino Filippi Edizioni E.S.PO.
Masonry and paving in Serizzo and Beole of Val D'Ossola - Sforzesco Castle in Milan
Serizzo was widely used since Roman times when this material was used to make columns. In Milan, Serizzo was used for the plinth and for the inner core of the Milan Cathedral pylons, in the Castello Sforzesco for the pavings and walls of the circular towers, as well as in various other civil and sacred buildings. In modern times Serizzo is used in many pavings and walls of private buildings, and it furnishes important works such as the airports of Milan Malpensa and Frankfurt, the metros of the cities of Milan, Brussels and Singapore, as a witness to the preservation of its historic representative function.
Serizzo and Beole masonry and flooring in Val D'Ossola - Mole Antonelliana in Turin
Turin, capital of the Savoy empire, soon became the bulwark of Luserna stone’s use, which reached its historic peak here in the Umbertine period. Today the Luserna Stone, whose market has become global, is used in civil construction for the production of pavings, coverings, outdoor furniture and interior furnishings, remaining a privileged actor for both contemporary architectures and for traditions of the past.
Trachyte paving - Piazza San Marco in Venice
After the Second World War the first machines for slab processing were introduced. They were intended both for the production of pavings and of building coverings especially for the Lombard and Veneto market, already culturally accustomed to appreciate the peculiarities and the value of this stone beyond its chromatic characteristics which are certainly not the main features of this material.
Masonry in Lessinia Stone - Cymbalist Synagogue in Tel Aviv
Currently, most of the difficulties of the past have been overcome by the technological development and new communication routes. Lessinia stone is used today in the construction industry, both in its natural conformation, in which the more or less roundish protuberances corresponding to the separation surfaces emerge, both in the different final configurations resulting from the different surface processing and finishing phases. Stone can be used in a variety of sophisticated and refined architectural contexts depending on the various finishing levels, starting from roughly brushed stone, which finds its natural location in rustic civil structures. In recent years many particularly important architectural interventions have been made using this material. Mario Botta has used it for some of his important works such as the Cymbalista Synagogue, the Jewish Heritage Center of Tel Aviv, as well as religious buildings such as the Seriate Church (Bergamo) and the façade of the Church in Genestrerio, Canton Ticino. Even Carlo Scarpa binds two of his important works to Lessinia Stone: the renovation of Castelvecchio in Verona, where the use of local stone was a natural consequence of the previous buildings and the Olivetti store in Venice where it is used as paving slabs in a preponderant quantity compared to the other materials present but at the same time with the ability to connect with them. The architect Paolo Portoghesi, also him an esteemed expert of this material, states that Lessinia Stone is the only material that has forced users to adapt to its characteristics: "Lessinia Stone has its own creative virtuality that has suggested stonemasons and bricklayers the way to make houses and there is no other place in Italy with an architectural grammar built on the material".