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BEST OF 30 YEARS
Exhibitor: Italian Trade Commission, Confindustria Ceramica Design: Mauk Design Inc., San Francisco, 415-243-9277, www.maukdesign.com Fabrication: Peak Exhibits Inc. (now part of Czarnowski Display Services Inc.) Show: American Institute of Architects National Convention and Design Expo, 2001 Budget: $40,000 – $79,000 Size: 20-by-40 feet

PHOTOs: Andy Caulfield
Timeless Tiles
How do you promote the entire Italian-tile industry with only 10 pieces of tile? You use a little thing called restraint. And that restraint, along with an expert use of shape and color, helped propel this design toward the top of the pile in the competition's Best of 30 Years category.

With little more than 10 tiles, 10 wooden cubes, and 10 red-fabric pyramids, this study in minimalism was born out of a logistical problem. The exhibit was commissioned by the Italian Trade Commission, which encourages trade with Italy, and Confindustria Ceramica, an organization of Italian tile manufacturers. The pair challenged Mauk Design Inc. with one simple directive: Design a stunning 20-by-40-foot booth to promote Italian tile, include a theater space for educational seminars, and use as little product as possible.


Staying Power
Although this museum-quality exhibit was created for one-time use in 2001, Confindustria Ceramica simply couldn't part with the 20-by-40-foot structure after its first show. In fact, the organization used the exhibit continually between May 2001 and December 2005, wringing out every ounce of drama this $65,000 design had to offer.
Mauk's $65,000 solution featured a formal museum-style layout reminiscent of classical Italian architecture in which 10 tiles were displayed as "objects d'art." Each of the 10 suspended fabric pyramids highlighted a different tile resting on a 30-inch, wooden cube. Simple, truss-mounted signage served as subtle yet sufficient branding, simultaneously masking the trussing from which the pyramids hung.

With seating for 20, the stark-white presentation theater formed the heart of the space and provided a striking contrast against the surrounding elements in rich Ferrari red – a dead-on selection as almost all Italian tile manufacturers are geographically centered around the Ferrari factory near Modena, Italy.

So what do you get when you multiply 10 Italian tiles by 20 white chairs and divide by two stark colors? An exhibit equation that equaled 10,000 times the impact – and a design that Exhibit Design Awards judges felt still stands out as remarkable more than 15 years after its debut.



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