About First Stone
Stone belongs to the matrix of materials that have followed Humanity’s development since the dawn of time. Ranging from the smallest and simplest of objects to intricate and extraordinary architectural structures, stone has accompanied the ways in which we, humans, have appropriated and redefined the world.
First Stone was an experimental international research programme that explored the potential of Portuguese Stone. Centred on the unique physical and visual characteristics of the various types of stone found across Portugal’s landscape, First Stone intersected production and design through the development of innovative applications for this exceptional material, highlighting its quality as well as the vast industry that is connected to its extraction and transformation.
By inviting 36 of the most fascinating contemporary authors from the fields of design, architecture and the visual arts, the central dimension of this programme called for a strong emphasis on creativity and the ability to innovate and create different proposals. The results bring a new added value to society, exploring this sustainable material in an innovative way.
First Stone accomplished five central research and development projects between 2016 and 2022 – Resistance, Still Motion, Common Sense, Expanded and Fragile Mode Fragile – curatorial projects that positioned themselves as a tribute to the extraordinary versatility of this ageless Portuguese resource and brought it to different parts of the world.
The programme produced 41 original concepts and a total of 77 pieces, all with different scales and functions, from a very delicate pair of rings to a children’s slide, including three permanent installations – Mint Street, designed for London’s Borough of Southwark, A Bench For a Tower, in New York and Ruisseau for the Vitra Campus’ gardens in Weil am Rhein. They were all produced by 28 Portuguese extraction and processing companies, partners of the programme.
Conceived and developed by experimentadesign at Assimagra’s invitation, promoter of the programme, which has won two Compete 2020 applications, First Stone innovated an entire production and transformation system through an approach centred on creativity and culture.
This project focuses on the powerful resistance of certain Portuguese stones. Using this characteristic as a differentiating factor, several architects were invited to develop projects that explore the physical and mechanical characteristics of Portuguese stones, along with their unique beauty and colorations.
Resistance was divided into two phases, where the second phase continued the initial research undergone in the first, introducing a set of new types of stone and increasing the approaches and possibilities of the results. This phase also involved a consolidation of ideas, where original concepts were completely developed by the 5 architects invited for the first phase. A new group of 5 architects was added to take on new research, designing and producing new projects that enrich the exploration of new uses for Portuguese Stone.
The first phase of Resistance was presented in Venice, during the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, and the second presentation took place in Weil am Rhein at the Vitra Campus during Art Basel 2017, showing the results of both phases of the project.
This project brings together several protagonists from the field of graphic design, exploring the potential and diversity of Portuguese stone, focussing especially on its more visual characteristics of colour and texture.
The designers created drawings that were then produced in stone using inlaying techniques and exploring the textures and chromatic palette of the selected stones through their transparencies and possible finishing.
The project was guided by two central outlines: the exploration of the idea of beauty and its presence in public or private spaces, and the creation of images that can have several readings, according to, for example, perspective or light.
Still Motion was presented in Italy during the Salone del Mobile di Milano and the Milan Art Fair in 2017.
Focussing on product design, Common Sense is a project in which a group of international designers were invited to work on ideas for objects and utensils that explore the potential of Portuguese Stone and that are tailored for everyday life in the 21st Century.
It called for the design of pieces that are simple, where function is easily perceptible – aiming to achieve what is normally called common sense – and that channel a dimension of beauty and delicacy. The use of these objects is targeted towards domestic and personal settings, as well as for work and public spaces.
Common Sense was presented in São Paulo at the Lina Bo Bardi Glass House and at the MADE design fair.
Conceived by product designer Michael Anastassiades, Mint Street is composed entirely of Portuguese marble and is the first permanent outdoor installation of the First Stone programme.
Located in London’s Borough of Southwark, it has a strong environmentally conscious nature, as it uses off-cuts and discarded remains that result from the extraction of marble, which are usually left as waste in the stone quarries.
Using an array of different stones, the effect of the combined elements creates a stone carpet that contributes to the urban landscape of Mint Street Park and its surrounding area.
Expanded is the first project of the First Stone programme to be based on art. It presents original creations by Carsten Höller, Julião Sarmento and Marina Abramović, all conceived to be displayed in a public context.
The pieces produced explore perceptions of space, scale, time and place, as well as the possibility of expanding self-imposed and culturally-based limitations.
Placed within the gardens of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice, immersed in nature and displayed together, the pieces that comprise Expanded provide visitors with moments of experimentation and confrontation, underlining the value of art and culture in public spaces.
A Bench for a Tower
A Bench for a Tower unveiled a bench by Álvaro Siza, specifically designed for the lobby of his new tower on the island of Manhattan.
Named Hell’s Kitchen Bench, due to the building’s close proximity to this area of the city, this original piece enters into a consummate dialogue with the sleek and refined lines of the building. It is a striking piece of furniture, measuring almost 5 metres in length, revealing in its design the poetic modernism that is so characteristic of this architect’s work. The piece also presents another material in combination with the stone: wood, creating a symbiotic relationship between these two natural and sustainable raw-materials.
This bench is a gift from the First Stone programme to the city of New York and will be permanently installed within the lobby of this new skyscraper.
This is a comprehensive and thorough website about Portuguese Stone that represents an important tool in researching the potential of the practical applications of this material. It presents not only the technical characteristics of the stones and where they can be found, but also contains detailed and updated information about the industry surrounding this material. Furthermore, the website follows the development and presentation of all the First Stone programme projects.
In order to provide more information and improve accessibility, the First Stone programme has also published 3 free applications for mobile digital platforms. The first app (First Stone) focusses on the research projects. The second app (Portuguese Stone) on the vast array of stones that exist across Portugal, and the third (Stone Stories) explores interesting facts and particularities about Portuguese Stone. Allowing for a more appealing approach towards research, visualisation and the manipulation of information with an aspect of entertainment, these digital apps are a platform for better communicating content to various interested parties: industry, designers and clients.
The First Stone programme also comprises an ongoing documentary film series, produced in partnership with the Portuguese television network RTP. These films explore the various projects of the programme and provide an understanding about the various aspects of Portuguese Stone. They delve into the existence of the stones in nature, tracing the extraction process and the multiple possibilities for processing, presented through innovative ideas and the development of specific projects. The first 3 parts of the series aired in October 2018 on RTP2.
With the High Patronage of His Excellency the President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa
Production and Manufacturing Companies
Airelimestones / Ardósias Valério e Figueiredo / ASG / Comármore / Cupa Stone / Dimpomar / ETMA / Ezequiel Francisco Alves / Farpedra / Fátima Stones / Feliciano Soares Granitos / Formas de Pedra / Gárgula Gótica / Granidaire Granitos / Joaquim Duarte Urmal & Filhos / Julipedra / JRG Granitos / LSI Stone / Manuel & Cardoso / Marfilpe / Marmocazi / Mármores da Granja / Mármores Galrão / Mocapor / Moca Stone / MVC-Mármores de Alcobaça / Pedrantíqua / Pedra Secular / Pereira Gomes & Carvalho / Polimagra / Silaco / Sociedade das Pedreiras do Marco / Solancis / Solicel / Solubema / Transgranitos