Creating flawless, fully continuous marble flooring, without any join or tonal difference—this was the challenge for one of the pavilions at the Norman Foster Foundation headquarters in Madrid. The foundation is housed in an historical palace designed by Joaquín Saldaña in 1912 and offers a showcase for works that represent personal benchmarks in the renowned British architect’s career. The creative team behind this place of reflection and knowledge-exchange were seeking to install marble flooring in the exhibition space that offered visitors a sense of complete unity of perspective.
The Norman Foster Foundation is a separate, independent institution from the architecture practice, with architects from the foundation’s own Department of Architecture, Design and Technology working on the pavilion, under the supervision of Norman Foster. Local knowledge, skills and materials were essential in the project’s construction, and eleven of the twelve advisors and six of the nine contractors and suppliers were Spanish, including COMPAC The Surfaces Company, with the rest from Italy, Germany and Japan.
The ingenious idea thus required an equally ingenious solution. For this, the company took the challenge to heart, aiming to create ‘invisible joins’ that enabled it to use its catalogue products. In this vein, different departments at COMPAC collaborated on the project, including R&D&i, Production, Quality, Architecture and Projects. The latter department functions as the nexus between clients requesting specific building solutions and COMPAC. The team ‘translates’ the ideas for the company’s professionals, who work on making each one of them a viable reality. In other words, it represents an à la carte architectural solutions service.
And how did the company manage to create uniform marble flooring covering 144 square metres? One of the material’s key elements was a vital starting point: the uniformity of hues in COMPAC marble. This crucial component is renowned amongst professionals and any installation of the firm’s flooring is a visible showcase of the immense prior research carried out in design and production to avoid any contrasting tones. The R&D&i team ran different lab trials to ensure the look of unbroken flooring. The COMPAC team then installed the material in accordance with the client’s requirements and following the instructions of the R&D&i team.
A pavilion exploring Foster’s techniques
As the Norman Foster Foundation states, ‘the building resolves the uneven geometry of the patio with an aeroplane wing shaped roof supported by a cantilevered steel structure’, hidden by laminated glass walls with no visible means of support. One of the main elements of the pavilion is a sculpture by Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias, The Ionosphere (A Place of Silent Storms), comprising light interwoven carbon fibre panels that frame the vistas of the patio from the pavilion, as well as offering intermittent shade. The pavilion continues to explore the pioneering techniques designed by Norman Foster for over five decades.