A question of materials
Virtually unknown in his homeland and forgotten even in his native city of Detroit, American singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez unwittingly became a legend in South Africa, where his work was taken up as an anthem of the anti-apartheid struggle. The story is brilliantly told in the award-winning documentary (Oscars 2013) « Searching for Sugar Man » directed by Malik Bendjelloul.
Another rather different story set in South Africa involves two extremely well-known companies that operate respectively in the worlds of fitness and ceramic tiles.
One is Virgin Active, a global chain of fitness centres owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. The other is Italgraniti Group, a dynamic and innovative Italian ceramic tile manufacturer that has seen considerable growth in recent years driven by investments in cutting-edge technology.
Founded in the UK in 1998, Virgin Active has a business model that seeks to combine physical fitness with mental well-being. Envisaged more as health clubs than traditional gyms, the facilities offered include gym rooms, fitness studios, swimming pools, spas, relaxation areas and cafés, as well as spaces set aside for children’s activities.
There are currently 233 Virgin Active health clubs located in 8 countries worldwide with a total membership of 1.4 million people. They are particularly popular in the UK and Italy with 43 and 33 clubs respectively, but perhaps surprisingly the country with most clubs of all is South Africa with 138, including 18 in the urban area of Pretoria alone.
For its clubs in Pretoria, Virgin Active South Africa chose large-format porcelain panels from Italgraniti Group’s Materia D collection for the floors and walls.
This exclusive concrete-look collection is extremely versatile in terms of both surface finishes and sizes and meets aesthetic and performance requirements in both residential applications and public spaces, including high-traffic areas.
It is particularly suitable for complex interior design solutions because the wide range of sizes and surfaces guarantees aesthetic continuity between the floors and walls.
With their pronounced surface texture and neutral colour, the Materia D panels enhance the rigorous, linear volumes of the Virgin Active clubs in Pretoria. The pure, essential surfaces are not only ideal for their aesthetics but are also extremely practical for use in gyms and swimming pool areas, where they are appreciated for their non-slip surface and a texture that makes them pleasant to walk on with bare feet.
Enhanced by soft side lighting, the textural qualities of the surfaces help to create spaces with a strong sense of identity.
Italgraniti Group, Materia D collection
Bianco, Tortora, Grigio, Cenere, Fumo
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): < 0,5%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 175 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 35 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): >0,60dry / > 0,60 wet
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant