strata: much more than a tile

by clé tile | published: Dec 10, 2021

there’s something about strata linea: it’s not just an extraordinary blend of different sized tile planks that feature a rich variety of highly sought-after stone.

that something isn’t just seen, but sensed and felt. there’s a connection to something bigger, there’s a depth. and a little mystery, too.

a big part of this is due to its origin: a place rich with history and geology, and the birthplace of some of our most important ideas and cultural traditions: the middle east.

assyrian stone – facade of the temple of goddess inanna at uruk (modern-day warka, iraq) made of brick and stone. (source)

the middle east is a region with a deep history of design that dates back thousands of years, all made possible by stone.

early middle eastern civilizations (first the sumerians, followed quickly by the babylonians and assyrians) constructed homes and temples out of brick, which they could easily make using raw materials found around them. building with brick also allowed these early builders to accommodate the harsh topography of their homeland.

as the need for stronger, longer-lasting structures increased, brick was replaced with stone and the trend never really went out of style. stone structures found in saudi arabia and jordan are known to be among the oldest in the world; ancient and mysterious, these structures exemplify the versatility and durability of human’s oldest building block.

tchoga zanbil – a stepped pyramid from the ancient kingdom of elam, 13th century bce (source)

stone’s resilience to fire, wind, rot, and pests–and the minimal maintenance required for it (particularly when compared to other materials)–contributed to its continuing allure.

today, the versatility of stone in use and form offers the seamless transitions and smooth lines that fit perfectly with the modern minimalist architecture currently popular in the middle east.

many new names in design are re-thinking the potential of stone, and producing never-before-seen interpretations of furniture, fixtures, and more. one of these names is rula yaghmour, a leading architect and designer in amman, jordan, whose new project kutleh is an homage to jordan’s history in stone while creating something entirely new that is both modern and sustainable.

kutleh was first presented during amman design week in 2017 by yaghmour, now the lead designer at yaghmour architects based in amman.

named after the arabic word for block, kutleh’s projects center around bonding layers of reclaimed stone to form a larger object. seventy percent of quarried stone goes to waste, and kutleh aims to create new stone “blocks” from this surplus. this collection of stone tables, light fixtures, and vases uses repurposed stone left over from yaghmour’s construction sites.

kutleh chair, coffee table, and vase by rula yaghmour

reclaiming discarded stone not only makes the project more sustainable, but also showcases the diversity of color and texture in stone; from the red rock of petra to the natural beige of jerusalem stone, and many more.

using kutleh as a point of departure, clé worked with yaghmour to create a line of stone tile that would highlight the breadth of this rich material.

recognized as a rising talent in the design world, we asked rula to give us some insight into her background and her inspirations for kutleh.

clé: you have a unique vantage point as a female architect in the arab world. how does that impact what you do?

rula: in a profession dominated by men internationally and even more locally, this is a definite challenge. however, in the arab world, with time and as i’m building years of experience in practice, i’m actually seeing growing appreciation. i was privileged to get support from my family and direct community, however i understand that this is not the case with the higher percentage of females in our region. this has been a motivation for me to keep going and not a day passes without me being grateful for being able to achieve this.

how has the reception to your designs been – in jordan and beyond?

i believe in simple ideas — people connect and respond intuitively to concepts that they understand and comprehend. kutleh is based on a simple and basic idea of creating repurposed blocks by stacking reclaimed tiles. it presents itself also as a redefined raw material, in which designers can carve out their limitless creations from, to introduce innovative forms. and i’m happy that we’re seeing a response from designers from jordan and the world, as we develop products out of this new medium.

how does kutleh play into the idea of environmental responsibility in jordan?

jordan is well known for being a resource-scarce country, repurposing goods is embedded in our cultural heritage and in our everyday encounters. add to that, being raised in an ever-growing young nation pushes us to think innovatively about the resources we have in hand and how to reclaim and reuse them. for me, the challenges we face in our region is the secret ingredient behind innovation and creativity, and scarcity for sure is aligning us with the right direction of international awareness towards environmental responsibility.

any future ideas you may be willing to share?

we believe in hybrids and in collaborations, between kutleh and industries that originally work with stone and marble. we see strata with clé tiles as one of the most fruitful marriages between kutleh and the tile industry. our next step is to venture into the art spectrum – we’re launching a new form of blocks in the upcoming amman design week this october, and we envision it to become a new art form. stone and marble sculptors were the first to lay their hands on this material, and we want to see kutleh move into the contemporary form of this practice.

one of the things that our clients have been responding to with the strata linea collection is the sense of history that is embodied in the stone. is this something people take for granted in jordan or is it equally appreciated?

amman, the capital of jordan is famous with its picturesque mountains with climbing houses clad with stone. people in jordan appreciate stone, and understand that even with being an abundant resource in our area, there is value in it and in the inherited craftsmanship and contemporary fabrication tools used for it. it is named as the ‘gold’ of construction materials. moreover, our early houses were built from stone blocks, and the technology of using stone has evolved also with time. people see value, pride and history in this material. and as an architect, we see this as a common request with clients, “we want a stone house”.

like many natural stones, strata linea is easy to clean and maintain, and will last a lifetime when cared for properly. stone floors and countertops can be cleaned with ph neutral soapy water once in a while, and more regularly in high-traffic areas. because stone surfaces leave little room for bacteria and mold to grow, chemical cleaners are not necessary and could even damage the material.

we advise sealing with laticrete stonetech® bulletproof sealant, a food grade sealant suitable for stone countertops. install with tight grout joints and use a non-sanded grout to minimize the risk for bacteria build-ups in the cracks.

you can leave the stone surface unsealed if you’re happy to see a beautiful patina with all the stains left by food, liquids, anything really that can stain a porous stone surface but we strongly recommend sealing the grout joints.

if you do opt for sealing the stone we recommend re-sealing every year to prevent staining. regular sealing also keeps the stone from absorbing water and oils. (if water and oil do not bead up on the surface, that’s a good sign the sealant has worn off or was not applied properly.)

with stone, it’s safe to assume that less is more when it comes to care. after all, we’ve been using it for our homes, monuments, and temples for thousands of years and still get to appreciate many of these structures to this day.