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    What is marble?

    • 4 min read

    Why Carrara marble is honoured Totem Road’s sustainable lifestyle range. 

    When Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei creates a surveillance camera out of marble, you know he is making a bold, contemporary statement. Immortalising this technology, speaks to the themes of paranoia and voyeurism prevalent in our culture. And though materiality has always been a feature of this artist's work, this piece really stands out.

    AI WEIWEIWith Surveillance Camera (2010), Ai Wei memorialises the clunky apparatus of CCTV surveillance by replicating it in marble, the medium common in monuments and gravestones. Here Ai evokes themes of paranoia and voyeurism and the omnipotence of a ‘policing’ authoritative force. It underscores his own particular response to constant surveillance: making his life totally transparent through endless Twitter documentation. This work asks; If everything is open there’s nothing to spy on.

    Ai's Carrara marble Surveillance Camera shown at his recent NGV show in Melbourne with Andy Warhol, raises a pertinent question: Is CCTV how our generation will be remembered? Is widespread suspicion part and parcel of our cultural legacy?

    AI WEIWEI, Colored Vases, 2006/2008, nine vases from the Neolithic age (5000­–3000 BCE), industrial paint, dimensions variable. Private Collection, USA. Photo by Greenhouse Media. Courtesy Arcadia University Art Gallery, Philadelphia.

    Certainly more beautiful objects were fashioned out of marble by the Greeks and Romans during Classical Antiquity. After all Carrara marble has been used since the era of Greek Archaic sculpture onward. It is still quarried today in the city of Carrara, in the Lunigiana, at the northernmost tip Tuscany, Italy. 

    Today Carrara marble can be found all over the world. From the proud Harvard Medical School Building in Boston, to London’s stoic Marble Arch and Oslo’s majestic waterside Opera House ( pictured below ), in Norway. This is because marble stands the test of time. It lives to tell us something about our shared history.

    OSLO OPERA HOUSE Opened in 2008 the Oslo Opera House, in Norway is the home of The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, and the national opera theatre in Norway. The angled exterior surfaces of the building are covered with Italian marble and white granite and make it appear to rise from the water. It was design by Snøhetta.

    In practical terms Carrara marble is especially prized for fine art sculpture because of relative isotropy and resistance to shattering. Unlike some materials which crumble to the sea, marble endures. 

    Marble can also be highly polished, making it ideal for decorative work.
    While this trend for embellishment may wax and wane, marble remains a favourite with designers, architects and interior stylists. Even as light and concrete become the predominant forces in great architecture, marble holds its ground as a key material.

    In contemporary and modern art, marble is also everywhere. Works by artists like Rodin and Michelangelo, show how these masters adored working with it.

    If you look to Carrara itself the reasons abound. For a start the typical “waxy" look of marble, gives stone sculpture a human appearance.

    Secondly the pale grey veins bring a rich and fluid humanity to this fiercely dense material. It’s no wonder to find, that furniture design incorporating marble, is still made today, in a myriad of styles.

    TOTEM ROAD DINING TABLE Kara's timeless appeal lies in its luxurious, functional proportions and authentic simplicity, giving you the freedom to personalise the surrounding space. Carrara marble top and white oak base.

    Marble also offers architects, artists and industrial designers a visual and material sustainability few can rival. For a start it is superior to bronze and limestone because while its is relatively soft and easy to work when first quarried, yet becomes extremely hard and dense with age. Secondly it has a neutral impact on rooms. This neutrality and durability has enduring benefits.

    TOTEM ROAD COFFEE TABLE Kara is crafted from Carrara marble with its free flowing veins and slightly translucent quality. Complimented by our ethically-sourced sustainable solid oak base and hand finished natural grain.

    Today in an era where people are questioning the sustainability of everything from the fish they eat to clothes they buy, owning something solid and reliable counts for more than ever. 

    Marble is still used by many architects making modern buildings. It is simultaneously used in the most public places and most private spaces one can think of. It cannot be pigeonholed as opulent or rustic. It straddles both worlds.

    MARBLE SPLASH BACK & TABLECM Studio combine a marble topped table and splash back to add luminosity and a sense of space to this ground floor terrace kitchen spilling onto a small courtyard.

    In the kitchen marble provides many smooth, flat, consistent horizontal surface with a cool temperature which makes it ideal for making pastry. In the bathroom it is chosen for it's calming, clinical, clean and easy to clean durability.

    MARBLE SHOWER ROOM This marble shower room by CM studio uses Carrara Marble as a striking backdrop and floor for a small bathroom in a Paddington terrace.

    Totem Road who have made it their business create ethical, luxury furniture devoted to the needs of conscious consumers chose Carrara marble for both its high quality and effortless simplicity. In a bid to make furniture that is not ‘over-designed’ and can claim the asset of timelessness - Totem Road have chosen to feature marble as a fitting accent to their white oak range of futniture.

    TOTEM ROAD SIDE TABLE Marble mid-sized table suitable for sitting alongside sofas, bed and arm chairs.

    Dinging tables and coffee tables are all topped with Carrara marble slabs, providing a flawless, evergreen look that can blend with any interior. To learn more about the Totem Road Carrara range click here.