06/03/2013 - Vietri sul Mare

Design Pottery

Ceramic-studded façades

Vietri sul Mare is the easternmost pearl of the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, just west of Salerno. It’s also the happiest possible hunting ground for anyone who’s into ceramics.

They’ve been throwing pots here since the 1600s. Industrial production still abounds, while the old part of town is just brimming with craft workshops and showrooms. The style is mostly naif, with  folk-arty motifs drawn from the countryside and the sea. But above all Vietri pots are vibrantly, brilliantly, fearlessly colourful.

Ceramica Artistica Solimene is a pretty typical pottery as far as artistic production goes. Traditional tableware and decorative tiles in rich and varied hues are formed, fired, hand-painted, glazed and exported along with the best of them.

What is truly extraordinary is where they do it, for the factory was planned by visionary architect and designer Paolo Soleri, best-known for combining architecture and ecology in Arcosanti, the community he founded in Arizona in 1970. Born in Turin, Soleri worked with Frank Lloyd Wright early in his career, was probably suffering from a bout of Gaudi-ism when designing the Solimene factory, has received numerous awards during his career, and last I heard was still lecturing, age 93, at Arizona State University.

The Vietri pottery, completed in 1954, is the only Soleri building in Italy. The cavernous space inside is a forest of reinforced concrete struts; the facades are studded with ceramics. Further description presents something of a challenge, so I’ll let the images talk…

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