Yesterday, New York–based SHoP Architects unveiled a “sculptural terra cotta enclosure” designed for Interni Magazine’s Material Immaterial exhibition which will be on display during FuoriSalone 2017, in Milan. Called WAVE/CAVE, the structure was commissioned by Interni as a partnership among SHoP, ceramics manufacturer NBK Keramik, and aluminum products fabricator Metalsigma Tunesi to “explore the dual spirit of design.”

Erected in the main courtyard of the Ca’ Granda at the Università degli Studi di Milano, the enclosure is formed in three strata of aggregated terra cotta modules, each uniquely carved to create the undulating contours of the interior space. The 1,670 units were manufactured by the Germany-based NBK Keramik, which was able to produce 797 distinct profiles while using only one extrusion mold. Fluted on the outside and laced together on the interior with an ornamental web-like pattern, each block was left unglazed and when stacked they stand over seven meters tall.

The enclosure functions more like a sculpture than an occupiable space, as one’s experience of the interior is largely viewed from the periphery or the second floor of the adjacent cloister. This was essential to the design concept that SHoP imagined for the assemblage; the firm stated that it is “open to the action of life around it but accessible only to the imagination and the gaze.” This is strategy is a reaction to the speed at which contemporary life is lived—a “deliberate counterpoint to the internal agitation and disrupted attention spans encouraged by contemporary media and technology.” Christopher Sharples, principal at SHoP, said:

We’ve always been interested in working with traditional materials…. Today’s technologies allow us to draw out their material authenticity in new ways. The collaboration between SHoP, NBK Keramik, and Metalsigma Tunesi on WAVE/CAVE was an effort to demonstrate the poetic possibilities of terra cotta while suggesting new directions for its use in contemporary construction.

Lighting was designed by PHT Lighting Design Inc. and engineering by Arup. This project will be on display until April 15.

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