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Plo: Pillar of Wisdom

[SPONSORED FEATURE] From granite monoliths to marble palaces, Carrières Plo’s stone continues to define architectural projects

For 35 years, Carrières Plo has owned the largest granite quarry in Tarn at St Salvy de la Balme. Producing a staggering 20,000 cubic metres every year, Plo accounts for half of Tarn’s entire granite output, and a quarter of France’s entire production, 45 per cent of which is then exported across Europe.

Plo’s granite – Tarn Silverstar – combines raw strength with modern extraction techniques. The result is an exceptional material, offering homogeneous texture and colour and excellent wear resistance. The method of extraction, using diamond discs up to 4.8m in diameter, makes it possible to extract monolithic blocks up to 10m long.

Plo also operates two marble quarries in the Pyrenees, where it extracts Sarrancolin Versailles  – named after the royal palace of Louis XIV – and Sarrancolin Opéra Fantastico, used at Fontainebleau and Chambord Chateaux.

For years these marbles have been highly valued. They were later exported for prestigious projects overseas including the Empire State Building, the reception of the Mayflower Hotel in New York, the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, the MGM Grand Casino in Macao and even Tina Turner’s bathroom. Most recently, Versailles marble was used in the main entrance hall of the Shangri-La Hotel in the Shard London.

‘Producing a staggering 20,000 cubic metres of granite per year, Plo accounts for a quarter of France’s output’

French architect François Fontès, inspired by the natural materials of the Mediterranean, turned to Plo’s Tarn Silverstar granite to realise his project for the Marc Bloch secondary school in Sérignan which opened in September 2013.

Rooted in its landscape, the school used a total of 800 cubic metres of Tarn Silverstar granite, including 123 blocks of 25 tons, each 8m in height.

Each block had a specific location and was positioned and lowered by crane onto its respective base. Besides their impressive visual qualities, the monolithic columns support the roof and gateways, as well as giving very high energy performance due to their impressive thermal mass.

Following the success here, the architect is now working on another project using 240 monolithic blocks for the faculty of medecine in Montpellier.

For Plo, stone is a material that creates an architecture of its own, taking on qualities as it ages with the building.

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