Annie Aalto wins Marble Institute of America Pinnacle Award of Merit

Annie Aalto of Aalto Design/Creative Edge Master Shop will be awarded the Marble Institute of America’s Pinnacle Award of Merit for Commercial Interiors for 2013. The recognizes projects whose beauty, creativity, ingenuity, and craftsmanship exemplify professional mastery in the use of natural stone in commercial and residential environments. The awards will be presented at StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas in Las Vegas on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at the MIA Awards Luncheon.

Aalto, who holds a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design and has won acclaim for her contemporary, whole-floor lobby designs, is a principal at Aalto Design, which specializes in architectural design for waterjet fabrication of floors and walls for luxury hotels, commercial venues and private residences.

Aalto will be honored for her original design of the stunning marble lobby floor of the Shanghai Putuo Hotel, which was fabricated by Aalto Design’s sister company, Creative Edge Master Shop. Creative Edge is not only the oldest, but the largest and most experienced waterjet designer and fabricator in the United States, having created over 10,000 floor and wall projects using waterjet technology, including a wide range of luxury hotels, from the St. Regis Hotel in Kauai to the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas to the Grand Californian in Disneyland.

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This is not the first Pinnacle Award won by Aalto Design/Creative Edge. Harri Aalto, the founder of Aalto Design and co-founder with Jim Belilove of Creative Edge, won a Pinnacle Award of Merit for Residential Interiors/Exteriors in 2012 for a residential floor, fabricated by Creative Edge, that he designed in collaboration with developer George Kevo.

Aalto is known as the first artist to recognize the potential of waterjet technology in creating decorative art for stone floors, walls and hotel lobbies.

“I had a startling moment of insight, and realized how important this new waterjet technology, which was used exclusively for industrial purposes at that time, would be for artistry and design,” he says. “That was the impetus for starting Aalto Design and Creative Edge.”

Twenty-five years later, commitment to creating fine art with waterjet technology is still at the heart of Creative Edge’s success.

“What sets us apart from other waterjet fabricators is that we’re inundated by artists,” says Harri Aalto. “Usually manufacturing businesses don’t have artists; they have either engineers or businessmen. At Creative Edge, because of its close association with Aalto Design, at every step of the process there is some artistic eye.”

In the case of Aalto Design, the artistic eyes are primarily from the Aalto family—Annie Aalto is Harri’s eldest daughter, and his wife, Catherine, is another award-winning designer in the firm.

For the Shanghai Hotel Putuo project, located in the upscale Putuo district of Shanghai,
Aalto Design was commissioned by the project’s interior designers, VOA Associates, to create a custom floor design that followed the curving lines of a Tornado Bar and swirling ceiling fixture—not only to further their wind-motion theme—but to direct the flow of traffic from the hotel's lobby to the reception desk and from there to guestrooms and on to the bar and seating areas.

“VOA asked us to create a design to coordinate with the interior but not take away from its very modern, streamlined contemporary look,” says designer Annie Aalto.

To create the stunning whole-floor design that sweeps like the wind across the massive lobby, Aalto designed thick lines of the same width to swirl across the floor, the similarity in dimension giving it a more controlled, reserved, almost mathematical feeling. She also ended each curve with a flat end to make it look less organic.

The completed floor is constructed in four shades of stone—Royal Botticino, New Royal Botticino, and Bursa Dark marble, plus Limra limestone. The owner of the project, Ming Jie Real Estate, determined early on that waterjet technology was the only way to achieve the long curves in a marble floor. They contacted Creative Edge through their partner in Shanghai, Hawei Perrett of FNW Co.