The tradition of cotto dates back thousands of years, and is the result of the subtle alchemy between water, earth, and fire. The Fornace Brioni in Gonzaga, a small town centre steeped in history and Renaissance culture in the plain around Mantua, produces cotto exclusively by hand, according to a savoir-faire that has been handed down through the generations, using the finest clays from the slow sedimentation of the floodplain of the River Po.
The company was founded in 1920, following the acquisition of the so-called “Fornacione” (that according to certain documents still stands on its original location of 1883). This family-run company is now in its fourth generation, headed by Alessio and Alberto Brioni, who are planning the future of cotto maintaining their strong link with the past. Fornace Brioni was already a leader in the renovation of old flooring, and has over the years carried out constant research on the potential of this material that it produces in several versions, ranging from uniform and variegated cotto to glazed versions, in red and pink, and even grey and black to meet more contemporary tastes. Due to this prospect of development, the Brioni brothers have hired architect Cristina Celestino to direct the design department of the brand, from 2017.
Cristina Celestino was born in 1980 in Pordenone. In 2005, after completing her course of studies in the Department of Architecture of IUAV University of Venice, she began to work with prestigious design studios, focusing on interior architecture and design. Today Cristina Celestino designs exclusive projects for private clients and for companies. In 2016 Cristina is awarded with the special jury prize at Salone del Mobile. In the same year, in occasion of DesignMiami/, Cristina designs “The Happy Room” collection for Fendi.
” For both the Giardino all’Italiana collection, and also the Gonzaga collection, I started off by looking back at the history of this material, with the idea of moving it away from his historic rustic application and towards its more contemporary context. I realised that this material had a great deal of unexplored potential, so while traditional production techniques were still necessary, it was possible to experiment more on the design side.
There is nothing more homely, traditional and reassuring as a floor made with cotto tiles. The objective was thus to juggle around with the fundamental values of the material – its Italian workmanship, top quality, durability – and to give it a very bold appearance without altering its typical composition. For this reason, I kept to the genuine material and elaborated it drawing on the traditional shapes and patterns in Italian culture. The end result is totally innovative yet still reassuring, balanced between nostalgia and cutting-edge design trends.”