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The added value of LEADER

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A serene future for "pietra serena"?

Fosco Ferri
(LEADER Mugello/Val di Sieve, Tuscany, Italy)

 

“Pietra serena” (literally, “serene stone”) is the stone of Brunelleschi, Michelangelo and Vasari, widely used during the Renaissance for columns, capitals and murals. Grey and mat, “pietra serena” served in Florence to build the church of Santo Spirito, the Logge del Mercato and the Uffizi and to decorate the Strozzi, Gondi and Giugni Palaces, not to mention the Doggana d’Arezzo Palace and other major works. The bas relief of Donatello’s Annunciation, preserved in the church of Santa Croce in Florence, is the most noteworthy example of the infinite artistic possibilities of pietra serena.

Our LEADER area of Mugello/Val di Sieve, and the municipality of Firenzuola in particular which has the only pietra serena quarries still in operation, is specialised in the utilisation of this stone.

The “Pietra Serena” project is the result of a series of debates about the future of the sector by the local producers themselves (11 firms, 174 jobs) in the second half of the 1990s. Despite a certain development of their market, they considered it absolutely necessary to give a boost to the sector and to increase the local added value by finding more uses for pietra serena. This meant promoting a new image for a material that up until today has only been used for paving in historic neighbourhoods and for residential construction.

Taking the action on board, our LAG included among the main priorities of its LEADER II Plan an enhancement action specifically aimed at pietra serena.

With the support of the LAG, the municipality of Firenzuola and specialised advisors, the producers began a research and development process to come up with new products and uses for pietra serena. In parallel, the municipality of Firenzuola supported the organisation of training courses and exchanges with specialised institutions in order to reintroduce the old craft of stonecutter.

In the end, three main new areas of application were found for pietra serena: urban fixtures, interior decoration and the creation of various pietra serena objects. Twenty public benches were designed and made out of serene stone. Internationally renowned artists were hired for this project, including Giò Pomodoro, Joe Tilson and Yasada Kan. Made by local firms, these benches were presented at prestigious exhibitions, including the Milan Triennal. This first creation was followed by other products, demonstrating the material’s virtually infinite possibilities: “Trame di Pietra” (stone screens) to section off recreational areas; “Arazzi Lapidei” (stone tapestries) as an alternative to wall tiling; “Oggetti Sereni” (serene objects), a collection of interior or outdoor decorative objects.

The second series of projects arose from collaboration between the “CopSer” cooperative, founded by the sector’s firms, and the ISBA (Istituto Superiore per le Industrie Artistiche) in Florence. The result of an extensive debate on the area’s heritage, the action also widened the scope of possible uses for pietra serena in urban fixtures and interior decoration. In close collaboration with the firms and craftsmen of the sector, ISBA students developed various plans and prototypes that are being presented at various exhibitions in Italy in the spring and summer of 2000.

The local action group’s role in coordinating and supporting the project was essential. In total, the project represented a LEADER investment of EUR 224,000, of which EUR 87,000 was in Community funding.

The stone sector is steadily growing both in terms of sales turnover (+60%) and jobs (34 new full-time positions, or a 20% increase).

In addition to these economic results, the way in which the people in the business operate is radically changing. They are currently working closely together, and it is to such a point that it is now possible to talk about not only the organisation of a sector but also about the gradual development of a genuine industrial cluster specialised in pietra serena.

 

source: LEADER Magazine nr.23 - Summer 2000


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