Belgium is famous for beer, the detective Poirot, and mussels but actually this country gave us also one of the most versatile European limestones: the Belgian Blue.
The Stone has been quarried since the early middle ages and an early example of it used in construction is the magnificent Church of St. Wadru, in Mons, built in 1450. More recently, the Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels, the oldest covered shopping arcade in Europe - built in 1847 by the Dutch architect J.-P. Cluysenaer – perfectly demonstrate the high versatility of this stone, whose typical color is actually dark grey. In fact here the Belgian Blue is used in all its forms: chiselled and moulded hewn stones on the exterior façades and their reverse sides; honed and polished products for the skirting and lintels of the shop windows and sawn tiles on the floor. The monolithic columns on pedestals of the alleyways and peristyles, the lintels and circumferences of windows, the ledges, abutments and corbelling are also made of blue stone. It is interesting to note that the tiles have an almost polished appearance just because of the heavy foot-traffic inside the building.
Church of St. Wadru (Picture by Jose' Constantino)
Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels (Picture by Audrius Meskauskas)
Thanks to its excellent technical qualities, the Belgian Blue is one of the best construction stones quarried in Europe, which can be used in all climates and, allowing many different finishes, it is perfectly suited for indoor and outdoor applications.
This rock has also been used widely in sculpture and architecture by several well known artists (e.g. Mateo Hernández, Michel Smolders, Tom Blatt, Elise Delbrassinne, Benoît Luyckx, Santiago Calatrava, among others) and for more than 300 years has enhanced the beauty of countless projects in Belgium as well as abroad.
"Hipopotamo", made of Belgian Blue, by Mateo Hernandez in the Salamanca Museum (Picture from http://www.museoscastillayleon.jcyl.es/)
Law Courts, Bolivarplaats, Anvers, Belgium (Picture from http://www.rsh-p.com/)
The Belgian Blue, called also “Petit Granit”, is not actually a granite but a compact limestone (1). Its color, determined by the amount of organic matter present in the calcite crystals, is grey - from blue-grey to blue-black - and it becomes shiny black when the stone is polished.
The Belgian Blue has been extracted in several regions of South Belgium, especially in the Ardennes, since the Middle Ages. From the second half of the 19th century it has been used in various countries in Europe and overseas. Nowadays it is popular all over the world and in 1999 it got an Appellation d’Origine Locale (Local Appellation of Origin) designation. Around fifteen quarries are active these days and the quarrying and exportation of Belgian Blue represent an important part of the Belgian economy.
Belgian Blue quarry in Soignies, Belgium (Picture by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT)
The Belgian Blue is the best choice for many kinds of applications and it can be considered as Global Heritage Stone Resource in Europe, for both its use in construction and for artistic purposes.
(1) It has sedimentary origin, resulting from the accumulation of innumerable crinoids items (Animals living in the seabed, which have calcium carbonate skeleton), cemented into a mass of microcrystalline calcite.
CoorItalia has these four beautiful fireplace mantels in storage for sale:
Art Deco Fireplace
Art Deco Marble Fireplace recovered from an apartment demolition in Paris
Material: Breche Violette Marble
List Price: $3,800
French fireplace in the Palmettes style in Carrara marble
Period: ca. 1840
Material: Carrara White Marble
List Price: $2,900
A 19th Century red marble fireplace with relief carvings, salvaged from a
Period: ca. 1870
Material: Red Marble
List Price: $1900
Giallo Istria Marble Fireplace, hand carved new in Italy and “antiqued”.
These fireplaces are fully customizable in terms of size and material
Period: custom made
Material: Giallo Istria Marble
List Price: $3,500
C=42", D=8", E=57",
Brombal has launched a new line! It's called ESSENTIALS and it features an exciting product that will provide you with more opportunities to sell Brombal on those tighter budget projects.
Here's a quick rundown on the differences between ESSENTIALS and LUXURY lines:
- up to 20% less on operating units
- welded aluminum L or sloped glazing beads
- sloped or flat aluminum SDL
- welded to frame hinges (only vertical adjustment)
- complete painting of thermal break
- slightly less grinding of the frame and welds prior to finishing
- available in Galvanized steel powder coat or zinc "Raw Steel" finish
LUXURY (current product)
- welded steel, bronze, CorTen glazing beads (square, sloped, L, gothic)
- matching SDL or TDL in welded bronze, steel, CorTen
- mechanically fastened fully adjustable hinges (vertical and horizontal)
- masking off of thermal break prior to finishing
- grinding smooth of all welds and frame
- available in galvanized, stainless, CorTen, bronze metals
- multi-point hardware
- recycled metals
- OS2 frames
- standard lever choices
- Factory applied flashing/nail fin with interior brackets, this is a new feature
- dual seal weather-stripping
- lead times 14-18 weeks
Stay tuned for all the most important news about our Windows&Doors partners’ lines!
The use of Terracotta for the production of tiles as roof material, dates back to ancient times; in this regard, we distinguish two basic types of roof tiles:
Barrel Tile - Also called coppo in Italian, cylindrical shaped, slightly tapered (conical section). It is the oldest form.
Flat Tile - Present in numerous geographical variants, according to if it was used as both cap and pan, or usually as pan to a barrel tile cap. In the latter case they are now known as "Roman Pans."
Fire clay tiles have been used from the Mesopotamian civilization through the Greek, Etruscan-italic, Roman, and Byzantine one: an ancient history that unfolds, without interruption, through to today. It is during the Hellenistic period that the clay tiles evolve into a specialized building product, both from a technological/functional and aesthetical point of view.
It is interesting to note that in Greece - where there was a limited use of clay bricks, both raw and fired, because of the abundance of stones and marbles – there was an extensive use terracotta roof tiles. The need to protect and decorate the temples, made with more perishable materials (wood, mud-brick clay), lead Greek manufacturers to refine and adopt large-scale fire clay coatings.
The evolution of the gable roof with limited slope, with fronton and roof cladding in terracotta tiles, takes place in the Peloponnese, soon becoming the most popular feature for monumental buildings. It then spread out to all the colonized regions of Asia Minor, Sicily and Magna Graecia.
In the Hellenistic period two very different systems of terracotta roof cladding – both for the types of tiles and for the shape and color of the decoration – developed: the Spartan and the Corinthian roofs. The Corinthian one, more articulated and decorated, substituted the Spartan roof from the VI century B.C.
The Spartan roof basically consisted of barrel (semi-cylindrical) roof tiles overlapping each other as caps and pans alternatively. The Corinthian roof, more complicated, presents in its earliest stages a wide variety of forms: flat tiles with lateral curved margins or raised at a right angle (known today as Roman Pans because they became popular during the Roman period); and the barrel or triangulare tiles as caps. Sometimes these where made of a single piece (a Progenitor of the "S-tile") we know today. Other special tiles that we still see today were created: for example the dedicated ridge tiles. The last elemnt of the roof would be antefixes - vertical blocks which terminate the covering tiles of a tiled roof, with a decorative and practical objective at the same time, adorning the building and stopping the birds from nesting inside the hole - conceived as a simple closure of the Roman Pan’s end, with a palmette in relief.
Recreation of a Greek temple's Roof Cladding (G. A. Breymann, 1885)*
Greek colonies in western Sicily and Magna Graecia, developed a system of clay roof tiles that has traits of originality so we can actually identify a third type called Sicilian or Ionic. The characteristic feature of this system is represented by flat tiles combined with semi-cylindrical tiles. What most distinguished the Sicilian roof from the Spartan and Corinthian ones, however, is the absence of antefixes and the poverty of relief ornamentation.
Also in the Etruscan architecture, which preceded and for some centuries simultaneously developed with the Roman one, the use of terracotta elements for roof cladding had a long and important tradition.
The typical Etruscan roof is extremely decorated and colorful. The ridge of the roof is characterized by large tiles adorned with fantastic figures of wild beasts or deified ancestors; the gutter line is closed by the antefixes, often representing monstrous, comical and bizarre faces. The kinds of roof tiles used by the Etruscans are flat and barrel shaped and they overlap each other. We have also examples of Roman Pans adorned with a griffin head.
Recreation of an Etruscan temple, following the information of De Architectura by Vitruvio. (F. Bombardi, 1990)*
The clay roof cladding of the Etruscan temples, from the VI century B.C., shows influences from the Greek world in the shape of flat and semi-cylindrical tiles; the same thing happens with the antefixes female head-shaped.
The roof covering used by the Romans, followed straight from the Etruscan and Greek, in particular from the Sicilian model: the flat tiles overlap each other transversely in the direction of the slope of the roof. The barrel tiles are generally placed to cover the lateral connections of the tiles. Traingular caps dissapear in favour of the tapered barrel shape with one end wider than the other to help installation
Example of Roman roof made of both barrel and flat tiles.
The Roman flat roof tiles have a pretty standard shape (rectangular or trapezoidal), while there are several variables regarding the size. Like the flat tiles, also Roman barrel tiles have few variations: predominantly barrel shape is now the preferred shape and the coice being straight or tapered edges to fit with the rectangular or trapezoid pans. Their typical reddish-brown color was due to a strong firing required to make such products, porous by nature, more waterproof.
The same technology developed by the Romans survived the fall of the West Empire, transmigrating into Europe and, in particular, in the Italy of the early Middle Ages. The monumental Roman public buildings, many of which have fallen into disuse, were seen as major deposits of stones, bricks, and roof tiles.
During late Middle Ages, there were attempts to standardize the brick production. Of all the craftsmen active in various fields of building production, furnaces workers were the most subject to regulation. Governments attempted to control the prices of bricks in order to protect the public's interest in the area that covered the basic building material. It became essential to check the size of the bricks, as the furnace worker, when dealing with a selling fixed price, was tempted to cut costs by reducing the size of the product. So the second half of the thirteenth century onwards the municipal statutes of Venice, Padua, Pisa, Rome, Siena and other cities' fixed the measurements for the bricks and bags of lime and regulated prices for each product type. Municipal statutes built models of bricks that were used as official unit of measurement. Sometimes the official model was accessible and permanently exposed in a public place. A city where you can still see on public display samples of bricks and tiles is, among others, Assisi. There is a reference sizes tool (“Abaco”) for the municipal measures for terracotta roof tiles and bricks at the base of the tower of Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, with an inscription bearing the date of 1349.
Abaco for the municipal measures for terracotta roof tiles and bricks at the base of the tower of Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, Assisi, Italy.*
A legend says that the typical curved barrel tile’s shape comes from the manufacturing, which used to take place on the top of the brick-maker’s thigh. Actually the tiles were "formed" - this is the exact term - in a mold of wood, prepared by a laborer. The shape was convex and had the edges on all 4 sides, edges that allowed manual compression of the mud clay, called marl. The lines on the back of the tile originated from the fingerprints of the brick-maker, who pressed the clay into shape for 600/700, even 800 times a day. After the press, the artifact was left to dry in the sun for at least one/two hours. Once the wooden molds were all used, the brick-maker used to peel the raw tiles and put them in a bed of sand to make them dry. After 20/30 days of drying they were placed in the kiln and fired for several days.
In order to allow an efficient flow of rainwater, the use of the tiles had to be necessarily associated with the construction of pitched roofs; it means that tiles have been the exclusive roofing system until the advent of reinforced concrete (early 1900), which has allowed the construction of flat roofs, waterproofed by application of tarred paper. The use of tiles remains extremely popular for aesthetic reasons, preservation of scenic and historical heritage, and also for the efficiency of the material in terms of thermal and hydro insulation.
Roman Roof Tops: patching up roofs is an organic, ongoing process.
Given the extreme diversity of geographical contexts in which the tiles were used in Europe, it was inevitable that they would have evolved to various shapes and sizes.
The tile can also vary depending on its position on the roof (for example, those on the ridge are larger than those on the sloping areas). The color of the tiles is another important variable: it changes according to the different geographical regions because different clay produces different color tiles, but also different firing times and temperatures affect the final color.
This is still the most common type of roofing throughout Mediterranean countries and it is still considered very affordable.
The features that characterize terracotta roof tiles and make them the most popular choice are:
Excellent resistance to water and frost.
Exceptional thermal insulation by reducing unwanted heat loss or gain and decreasing the energy demands of heating and cooling system.
Longevity, a lifetime measured in centuries.
Porosity, which allows vapors formed underneath the roof to be absorbed and then evaporated on the outside.
In Europe there are numerous clay roof tiles production centers that use both traditional techniques and innovative materials and designs.
It is important to say that it is becoming more and more popular in the construction and architecture industry to reclaim, resell and reuse old tiles, which have a unique and amazing allure due to time, wear and character.
Eternal Roman Roof Tops
* Pictures from Tetti in Laterizio by Alfonso Acocella, Laterconsult Pubblisher, Roma, 1994
CoorItalia is pleased to announce that Brombal USA, the manufacturers of its Steel and Bronze Windows and Doors, have passed Miami Dade certification.
There are a number of standards that regulate the air & water infiltration standards as well as deformation under stress. Whereas the majority of the USA works under AAMA Standard – 101/I.S.2-A440, the County of Miami Dade (because of their numerous hurricanes) additionally requires the units to twice successfully stop an 8', 9lb 2x4 that is fired at the window at 50fps (34mph).
Brombal USA are now the first company ever to offer thermally broken steel, bronze, stainless steel and corten hurricane and impact rated product. BROMBAL’s EBE series 6' x 9' double door breezed its way through impact and hurricane testing with a DP rating of 65. That means that the units are tested for air, water infiltration and deformation at a wind equivalent of 160mph and any door that size (or less) is certified. Additionally, the 5’ x 12' narrow sightline rectangular mulled fixed units also passed and are now officially impact and hurricane certified. The narrow sightline certification allows the units to be mulled together to encompass larger spans of glass and continue to maintain the hurricane and impact certification.
CoorItalia is proud to offer a range of artisans that work in many mediums. From our stone carvers, to our terra cotta makers to our window and door manufucturers, but none are quite like our own Iron Man. This particular atisan has a passion for wrought iron and his craft has been handed down for 14 generations! Since 1655 this Italian family has kept the art of iron alive. Take that Robert Downey Jr.!
Villi Zanini uses the knowlege of over four centuries to create the most beautiful and custom iron work that I have seen in my many years as an interior designer and architect.
Creating custom work for private residential homes, hotels, yachts, and prestigious buildings all over the world, Villi is passionate about his work. Working with designers and architects who demand the finist quality of craftmanship and reliablity this handcrafted work is at the top it's game.
From gates to balustrades, fire grates to small buildings. Hammering, chiselling, moulding and forming, this man really does play with fire.
Railing in a Private Home
Every detail is carefully thought out and designed to perfection.
So when in search of quality iron, think of CoorItalia and our own Iron Man the one and only Villi Zanini. Not only will you get the finist work availabe, you will be suppried at how competitive the prices can be compaired to the local domestic suppliers, although none can compare in the tradition and in the artistry of this one man and his family.
CoorItalia and Stone
From inside the mountains near Vicenza, home of Andrea Palladio, Italians have been mining stone for centuries. One of CoorItalia's stone fabricators not only manufactures stone but also has owned the license to quarry since the mid 1800's. From generation to generation this family has handed down tradition and experience.
The famous Giallo Dorato or Bianco Avorio are known for their beauty and versatility. The stones are mined underground.
Blocks are taken and stored so there is always stock available to turn into whatever the job calls for. At any one time there is enough material available to clad a tall multi-story skyscraper. From slabs, pavers, carved elements, and fireplaces, you name it and they have the capability, and craftsmen to do it. This is just one of our many suppliers.
Clients are able to select material in the color they desire. From the warm golden yellow of "Giallo Dorato" to the creamy "Bianco Avorio" to the sleek greys of the "Grigio Alpini" and "Grigio Argento". Each one is then handled by hand by master craftsmen:
To create a variety of dimensional pieces, from classic fireplaces:
To contemporary spa areas
No matter what your need, CoorItalia can help. From simple floors paving to complicated building elements.
Let CoorItalia help turn your imagination into reality.
The thought of coming up with a holiday greeting card for CoorItalia every December is always a task fraught with danger: In a multicultural country like the USA we must make sure that Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza (and we can't forget Festivus!) are all covered so as to not exclude any one, And when we expand our horizons to include our vendors we include Santa Lucia, Epiphany, etc!
So being Italians we decided to dial the festivities right back to where it all began - Saturnalia, and as sponsors of the Institute of Classical Architecture we could not get more classical than the Roman times.
Saturnalia was a roman cycle of holidays starting today, December 17th. Originally it was supposed to last one day but was so popular that the days kept increasing and ended up lasting until the 25th. During this period presents would be exchanged, partying was widespread, gambling was permitted and it was the one period when societal hierarchies were overturned - the masters of the house had to feed and provide for the slaves and workers. Although officially a religious holiday to venerate the God Saturn it escalated to a period to celebrate more than that. Not so surprisingly the poet Catullus called it the "best of days". Sound Familiar?
For a full background to Saturnalia we refer you to the wikipedia entry.
So we hope you have a fun Saturnalia: time for giving and receiving, treating right those that work with you, and of, perhaps, eating too much over these days...
Be passionate about life… Be passionate about food and wine... Be passionate about stone and terra cotta!
On a recent trip to Italy the CoorItalia team got to see and experience all three! We toured from Siena up to the Vicenza region of Italy. We got to tour stone yards, terra cotta factories, iron makers, window and doors manufacturers and more, and will share these trips in a series of blog entries.
We start with one of the more interesting places we visited: a Terra Cotta maker in the Padova area. This particular company, and family, has been making terra cotta for over 200 years in the same “traditional” way they did back then, and when we say that technology has not sullied their production methods we mean it. There was not a computer in sight!
The heart of the operation is the huge Kiln, housed in a building with a chimney stack visible for miles:
The chimney was actually damaged in an earthquake last spring.
However the journey of a tile begins with the local clay. Behind the kiln is a field of clay some of it reds, some of it a lighter straw color:
In the spring time and early summer the clay is dug, and distributed along the edge of a field. It is then mixed with water to create the working clay and then it is thrown into a mould, the excess is cut off, the mould removed and the tile is then stored and allowed to air dry in the Italian summer sun, in a huge field:
Each one of these rows will allow the tiles to be gently air dried - by the sun in the day, and each night workers lower the wicker "curtains" (in the photo they are rolled up) to protect the tiles from frost and rain. At the end of the summer the tiles are stacked onto pallets for the one firing in the huge kiln.
The pallets are stacked inside the kiln which is a huge oval "racetrack" over 150 ft long:
The walls are 6ft thick and each door is then bricked up and sealed with mud.
In between the pallets wood is stacked in various strategic places along the kiln floor, the stacks are lit and the final door is sealed shut. The workmen then go upstairs to a floor directly above and start pouring coal through small holes in the roof
The firing lasts for days, is monitored by foremen that have done this for generations, and they only fire once a year. The outcome is as unique as Italy itself. The tiles are complex, colorful, multi-dimensional and beautiful!
In the above photo you see two tiles, the one of the right with mixed clay, rather than blended clay. Tiles are rough, brushed or honed according to client preference, each piece is unique, each piece is the product of a tradition that has not changed in centuries, and judging by their lack of technology will not change any time soon. Time and love - the old way of doing stuff.
Here is one of the paterns that is possible with their tiles:
It has been a long journey but we are very proud to announce that our steel and bronze windows and doors now have recieved the NFRC certification and they have been uploaded on the NFRC database of Certified Product Directory.
What does NFRC Certification mean? As we said in the Press release the NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) is a non-profit organization, which administers the only uniform, independent rating and labeling system for the energy performance of windows, doors, skylights, and attachment products. NFRC Certification is a standard against which fenestration products can be compared in terms of energy efficiency.
What it means to the consumer is that there is a single organization (and thus database) that tests windows and doors and verifies what their performance is when it comes to energy conservation. One of the main things they look at is how much heat is transferred through the frame and the glass (known in the trade as U-value). The lower the U-value the more energy efficient the window and door is.
There are many factors that affect the Uvalue of a unit, but it basically comes down to two main factors - the frame and the glass. There are an infinite amount of glazing choices for a home owner, from the simple single pane untreated glass with very high U-value to triple pane IG units (Insulated Glass) with heat mirrors, krypton filled and "low-e" treated surfaces which have very low u-values. Then there is everything in-between. Your best choice between cost and performance is usually a dual pane "low-e" unit that is air filled. You can, for a small price surcharge, add Argon or Krypton to the glass for better performance. Another aspect to consider (and that the NFRC tests) is Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). This measures how much of the sun's rays are converted to heat inside of the room. In this case there is no "good" or "bad" value as in winter you want to heat the house but might not want to do so in the summer. Many "Passive Houses" use SHGC to great advantage to reduce their energy footprint.
When it comes to how the frame affects the u-value of the overall unit it comes as no surprise that traditionally metal windows have always fared poorly compared to their wood and vinyl counterparts, and therefore Steel and Bronze window manufacturers have steered away from certifying their products with the NFRC. But this is where CoorItalia feels there is a big opportunity: Our windows and doors are made with latest technology profiles that are thermally broken. This means that the bronze (or steel) that is outside of the building, is separated from the bronze (or steel) from the inside by a highly insulted rigid material (made of a high density polyurethane resin).
[For more on what is a thermal break click here]
It is thanks to this thermal break that we have industry leading values amongst metal windows and doors opening up a whole new aesthetic option for Architects and Home Owners that want to beauty and durability of bronze and steel without compromising energy efficiency. Furthermore, whereas many other Steel and Bronze window manufacturers will certify one or two units we are certifying casement windows, both inswing and outswing, fixed windows, inswing and outswing French Double doors and single doors and even Lift & Slide doors.