Standing in a historic room, whether it's ancient or famous or clandestine, admirers are often quick to daydream of the goings-on of yore. "If these walls could talk," they muse. For Catalan designer Javier de Riba, he's more concerned with the floors.
"It moves me to think that one day these floors harbored experiences," he explained to The Huffington Post, "and helped form a part of someone’s daily life, and now finally rest forgotten."
The sentiment explains his newest project, suitably deemed "Flors," in which de Riba seeks out graying, abandoned grounds in Spain to turn into canvas. Instead of laying a carpet or replacing the emptiness with tiled mosaics, the artist uses spray paint and stencils to infuse dejected concrete with a bit of street-art flair.
The patterns, simple geometric designs that spread like quilts, are indeed an homage to 19th-century hydraulic mosaic factories indigenous to Catalonia. Built in the 1850s to churn out cement tiles, the factories employed hydraulic presses -- some hand-operated, others electric-powered. The signifier of a hand-operated press: the varying quality of patterns resulting from inconsistent pressure applied. Akin to the handmade mosaics, these imperfections often gave the tiles the character we treasure today.
"Many homes in this area feature this type of tile," he said to HuffPost, "and I have lived with them all my life." To de Riba, the tiling adds personality and rhythm to the houses of the Catalan regions; despite being identical, the repeating shapes generate new forms, "born out of how each of the tiles join and intersect."
Like the hand-operated presses, de Riba's painted floors are subject to the imperfections of handmade craft. He positions the stencils and unloads the spray paint, creating a nearly uniform product that bends and glitches according to the various surfaces and applications. "Through my intervention, I allow this sensation to flourish," he concluded, "and offer a testimony to these past lives.”