Viroc: a mixture of wood and cement for indoor and outdoor environments

A composite panel that combines the flexibility of wood with the strength and durability of dry cement.

Non-toxic, fireproof and waterproof, Viroc provides acoustic and thermal insulation, plus it is load resistant and easy to install indoors and outdoors. On paper, the panel made of a mixture of wood particles and dry compressed cement seems to ingeniously combine the characteristics of the two materials. To find out more and learn about its potential uses, we spoke to Antonio Bagnolati, Head of Special Materials of the Bonomi Pattini Group, the Brianza-based company that distributes the Viroc panel in Italy, and Matteo Tessera, Model Maker who has decided to extend the applications of this material to the world of art.

What are the material, technological and aesthetic characteristics of Viroc?

Antonio Bagnolati: The Viroc panel has a non-homogeneous appearance with different shades randomly dispersed, resulting from the natural colours of the raw materials used and the chemical reactions. Some tone differences may be observed on the same face, between the faces of the same panel or between different batches. The collection includes six colours: white, grey, black, yellow, red and ochre. We supply the panel with a choice of different finishes. A raw, natural panel with surfaces without any cleaning or finishing; a polished, natural panel with a glossy surface; a sanded, calibrated panel with visible wood particles on the surface. It is a very satisfying and versatile material, non-toxic, has acoustic and thermal insulation properties, it is load resistant, very easy to install, fireproof and waterproof. The panels can be cut, drilled and processed using electrical or compressed air machinery typically used in carpentry. The production of Viroc panel complies with the specifications of EN 634 and EN 13986 standards and carries the CE Marking Certificate. It is a ready-to-stock material, available at all Bonomi Pattini Group’s sites, in sizes 2600 x 1250 mm / 3000 x 1250 mm; other dimensions are also available on request.

In terms of the performance, is Viroc suitable for installation both indoors and outdoors? What are the main uses of this material?

AB: Absolutely, it can be used both indoors and outdoors; we generally use this material for ceilings and cladding, facades, walls and floors, but also in furniture, as interior decoration or street furniture. Recently it was used as packaging for perfumes and creams by a cosmetics company.

The north wall of Brescia Station was covered with a Viroc panel facade, with a work by the artist Emilio Isgrò. How was the project born?

Matteo Tessera: I proposed Viroc for the Brescia Station project because it was the only material that could meet the technical and aesthetic requirements of the project at the same time. It is not easy to reconcile the two things which, on the contrary, are often at odds with each other in a project: adopting a more technically valid solution often means giving up part of the aesthetics. In our case, on the one hand there were the technical and safety constraints required by the Brescia Metro, rightly motivated by an installation in a public space frequented by thousands of people 365 days a year. On the other hand, there were the aesthetic requirements of a highly visible artistic project: a gigantic wall in one of the city's busiest places, as well as the entrance gate for tourists arriving in Brescia by train. Technically Viroc is a very resistant and fireproof material. Aesthetically, its surface irregularities make it unique and alive. Thanks to these characteristics, I was able to convince both Brescia Metro and Emilio Isgrò of the quality of this material. I was involved in the project by architect Francesco Colorni of The Fab Lab Milano. We worked together at all stages to achieve the best solution in order to meet the artistic, technical and budget demands of the three parties involved in the project: the Brescia Museums Foundation, Emilio Isgrò and the Brescia Metro.

In this sense Viroc can offer new opportunities for the art world. Are there other creative projects coming up?

MT: We managed to realize the project in four months, between July and October 2020, when the health emergency seemed to have subsided. As soon as the installation was finished, the situation became serious again, so the opening of the work was done online, the museums were closed and the number of people in the Brescia Metro was reduced to a minimum. The project therefore had less visibility than it deserved. At the moment it is difficult to make predictions. What I can say is that now the work is finished I am completely satisfied with the use we made of Viroc for this project. I think it is a material that has great potential and is still little known. Promoting its use for public spaces could be decisive to give it visibility.

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