"How does a little building for decorative arts hold its own next to big icons?" asked Jim Olson, Partner at Olson Kundig. This was the challenge that the Seattle-based architects were tasked with when they took on a project to design a new space for Denver'sKirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. The project site sits in the shadows of two major civic projects from Daniel Libeskind and Michael Graves: the Denver Art Museum, and Denver Central Library respectively.
ManufacturerNBK USA Architectural Terracotta; John Lewis Glass; Swisspearl
ConsultantsKL&A Structural Engineers and Builders (structural engineer)
Date of Completion2018
ProductsTERRART® baguettes and rainscreen system by NBK USA Architectural Terracotta; Swisspearl “Carat HR Topaz 7070” large size panels
Olson said that when starting the project, he had been experimenting with wood detailing in his personal cabin and looking at various combinations of glossy and matte finishes. This spirit of experimentation rubbed off on the Kirkland Museum, which brings together a variety of glazed terracotta baguettes and decorative glass backed with gold leaf. "While the layout and elevations of the building are calm and simple, the materials cladding the exterior are full of energy," wrote Olson in a letter to the museum explaining the vision. "At the entry, hand-crafted amber glass fins will further enliven the facade. My hope is that the building itself will be considered a ‘piece’ in the collection."The project started with a desire to create a controlled gallery-style lighting environment and a protective space for the art objects housed within the museum, with the building envelope assuming an opaque character. The architects pulled from a range of yellow and gold hues inspired by the environmental conditions of Denver, which receives three hundred days of sunshine per year, and "energizing" color palettes pulled from Vance Kirkland paintings. The facade is a relatively conventional rainscreen system composed of wall connections, girts, and clips from NBK Terracotta. The system was customized by the architects and collaborator John Lewis Glass, who developed custom decorative glass inserts. Introducing custom material into NBK's rainscreen assembly was a collaborative process, requiring coordination between suppliers, manufacturers, installers, and contractors.The facade's composition achieves a randomized effect through the deft manipulation of patterns. Two approximately four-foot-wide modules were first developed to achieve a seemingly random order. These units were distributed across the facade and overlaid with two additional patterning effects that were applied in a mirrored fashion. Ultimately this produced a variable arrangement across baguette widths, depths, heights, and colors to produce a dynamic texture.Bryan Berkas, an architect at Olson Kundig, said the compositional system provided a useful way to document and communicate the facade components for the shop drawing process, and for overall quality control. "We could look at the four foot, nine inch module closely to make sure we were getting an even distribution of color, [and] a range of joint lines to ensure there wasn't too much alignment." The facade is capped by large roof overhangs, producing deep soffits. The soffits, almost always in shadow, are clad in deep bronze anodized metal panels that allow the roof to visually recede from the vibrant facade. The cladding is arranged in a unique herringbone pattern at the corners, developed by the metal panel manufacturer and installer through a series of mockups.A key feature in the project is a sculpture by artist Bob Vangold acquired by the museum during construction. The architects scanned the artwork and positioned the object onto the facade, bridging a continuous horizontal roof edge. The piece is anchored to the facade with base plates. Water collection and durability were carefully evaluated by the owner, structural engineer, and architect."Terracotta hasn't necessarily been on the radar in our office, so learning about new facade materials has been a great outcome of this project. It's a very intriguing material," said Crystal Coleman, Associate at Olson Kundig. "For us, it's a very vibrant and durable material."
Nestled into a small inner-city suburb of Sydney sits a new business school facility for the University of Sydney. The building, designed by Woods Bagot across three of their fifteen global offices, consolidates facilities that were once scattered across nine buildings on campus while supporting a student body of over 6,000 students. The massing of the building weaves into the context of the neighborhood, unified by a terra-cotta cladding system with carefully selected coloration that help to blend in with surrounding Victorian-era worker’s terraces.
Gosford Quarries; Stane Industries
ArchitectsWoods Bagot; Kannfinch; Carr Design Group (interiors)
Taylor Thomson Whitting (structural engineering)
Date of Completion
Systemterra-cotta screen over IMP/window wall assembly
GALVABOND® steel supplied by BlueScope Sheet Metal Supplies
The building envelope of the University of Sydney's Abercrombie Business School is composed of three components: an all-glass undulating base level, a window wall enclosing classrooms and offices, and an exterior screen assembly composed of terra-cotta baguettes.Matt Stephenson, senior associate at Woods Bagot, said a primary focus of the design team was developing a project that was contextually sensitive. “With the enclosure, the challenge was to maintain a singular identity and dynamic expression for the overall academic building.” The team conducted color theory research, arriving at a scheme that balances “background” coloration of insulated metal panels on the building envelope with “foreground” terra cotta screen colors. A color palette of unglazed and white glazed terra cotta was selected which allows the two facade layers to visually merge, creating a texture inspired by sandstone local to the area. The terra-cotta screen is composed of repetitive baguettes, dynamically arranged in response to program and solar orientation. The architects “unfolded” each elevation, designing orthogonally by setting up a series of operations that began with a uniform screen density. They overlaid a solar analysis and a programmatic analysis of the base building skin that differentiated between room type and activity level. This zoning of the elevation helped inform where baguettes could be eliminated within each facade. In active zones, the architects deleted over 35 percent of the baguettes to allow light and air into the active program spaces. Additional baguettes were culled in response to eye-height views, localized areas of seating, and areas of the facade that were obstructed by adjacent buildings. The last step was to rotate the baguettes on elevations that received the most severe sunlight in order to increase their ability to act as a sunshade while maintaining visual porosity. The result was a dynamic system assembled from standard componentry.
The project evolved between Woods Bagot’s Sydney office, located 30 minutes from the site, and their New York and San Francisco offices. The project teams would share design models on a daily basis, which, thanks to time zone differences, allowed for nearly continuous project development. Stephenson said firm benefits from expertise in multiple offices around the world, and that in the years since the early design phases of USBS, cloud-based model sharing has significantly improved, enabling for more streamlined workflows.
Open last year in Iowa City, the University of Iowa Voxman Music Building is a six-story, 184,000-square-feet academic building containing performance spaces, a music library, practice rooms, classrooms, and faculty studios and offices. It establishes a connection between the community and the school though specific massing articulation and building envelope detailing. LMN Architects credited their collaboration with W.J. Higgins (envelope), Weidt Group (energy consultant), Jaffe Holden (acoustics), and Design Engineers (MEP) with ultimately delivering a high-performance acoustic and energy-saving building envelope design. Among other awards, the building recently received the 2017 Excellence in Energy Efficient Design Award at at the 2017 AIA Iowa Convention in Des Moines.
Wausau Windows (glazing); Foshan X+Y (terracotta)
W.J. Higgins & Associates, Inc. (envelope consultant); Overgaard (envelope consultant to contractor); Magnusson Klemencic Associates (Structural); Design Engineers (MEP); Jaffe Holden (Acoustics & A/V); The Weidt Group (energy analysis)
Iowa City, IA
Date of Completion
unitized terracotta rainscreen; glass curtain wall
large format low iron glass from Wasau; custom terracotta from Foshan X+Y
Throughout the Voxman Music Building, the project team created an array of bespoke systems that responded to unique challenges presented by the complexity of the building type and programming. From facade components to acoustic systems, LMN worked to optimize the often conflicting needs of acoustic performance, aesthetic quality, and constructability.One of the most recognizable elements of the building design is a cantilevered “shingled” glass wall, containing a recital hall for students. Exposing this space, and expressing its function to the surrounding area, was central to the connective ideology of the project. It is here that students, in the words of LMN partner Stephen Van Dyck, learn about the art of performance. Prototyping scale models developed by the architectural team helped establish constructability goals and manage contractor bidding on the job. “We found that if we could build the design through models, it became much easier to have a discussion with contractors about our intent.” The unique facade was constructed as a series of rectangular units that produced a gridded, cantilevered steel frame for individual glass units to sit within. Aside from the shingled glass recital space, all other performance spaces were clad with a unitized terracotta system. The baguettes were composed of variable combinations of textures (smooth and grooved) and glaze finishes (matte and glossy). The resulting effect was a dynamic surface quality capitalizing on variable daylight conditions, including what the architects noted as exceptional sunrises and sunsets. Van Dyck said this idea of variable form and finish options within a base cladding material was one of the successes of the project and ended up guiding future facade designs, one of which is currently under construction. At key moments, terracotta cladding tiles formally twist into vertical fins. These moments accentuate a break between major program elements within the building. To ensure the accuracy of the complex form, the architects worked with the terra cotta manufacturer to develop a jig in which the extruded clay would be slumped, dried and later fired.“Buildings need to read at a variety of scales,” said Van Dyck. At a distance, the facade of Voxman reads at a solid/void compositional level. The medium scale allows for a reading of how program in the building is dispersed, through the cladding and aperture distribution. At a detail scale, the shimmering quality of varied terracotta tiles becomes legible. LMN’s Tech Studio, a small team within the firm, was integrated with the project team from the beginning of the design, playing a central role in the rationalization of surface geometry and interior acoustical surface detailing. Combining research in acoustic properties, material science and manufacturing processes, Van Dyck said the team approached each opportunity with a similar toolkit. Parametric modeling was central to the pursuit, enabling rapid ideation and precise geometric control despite vast complexity. In-house prototyping capabilities augmented the team’s abilities to test ideas well before finalizing documentation and procurement.Van Dyck said project opportunities often spawn unanticipated research problems that can be packaged to solve future design problems, and that the work from Voxman, which was completed last year, served as a basis for current and future projects. Further details can be found on LMN’s website documenting their acoustic related form-finding research and “Theatroacoustic System.” Van Dyck is co-chairing the upcoming Facades+ conference in Seattle, on Decemeber 8, 2017. More information about this conference and its participants, including registration details, can be found here.
This week, the first building added in 60 years to New England Conservatory’s (NEC) historic Boston campus will open. The new Student Life and Performance Center (SLPC) is a ten-story mixed-use structure offering over 250 residential units, along with space for dining and music-related preparatory work with a focus on collaborative research and experimentation. Ann Beha Architects (ABA) and Gensler designed and realized the building as a collaborative and integrated team—the two firms’ fourth collaboration.
Facade ManufacturerCentria (metal panels); Terreal North America (terra cotta)
ArchitectsAnn Beha Architects (Design Architect); Gensler (Associate Architect and Architect of Record)
Facade InstallerTishman Construction Company/AECOM (construction manager)
Systemterra cotta tiles installed in a rainscreen assembly
ProductsNeXclad Classic 16” tile by Terreal North America, with Impressionist Series glazing from Ludowici
Both the design team and the Conservatory wanted the project to have a unique identity and distinctive expression. Sited in a historic context, the design team sought a traditional cladding material that expressed craft, sustainability, and durability. They prioritized a “handmade” aesthetic, ruling out the machine-like qualities of colored concrete panels, composite materials, and costly glass curtain wall systems.The exterior envelope ultimately featured a refined composition of variegated terra-cotta tiles, applied in mixed patterns, with broad glass expanses at street levels, and stainless steel screen cladding. Offset operable windows animate the upper floors, and north-facing open lounges offer expansive views of Boston.ABA turned to Ludowici, a terra-cotta manufacturer known for 19th century historic tile roof renovations. Its subsidiary, Terreal North America, engaged with the architecture team during the design process and produced samples for full-scale on-site studio mock-ups. The mock-ups became an integral part of the design process due to the custom nature of the tiles, their assembly system, and finish options, and helped to facilitate collaboration between the design team, client, and city oversight groups. “The idea of implementing this innovative facade was exciting for the Conservancy,” said Ann Beha, owner of ABA. “The fact that you couldn’t just go see something like this elsewhere meant that mockups were an essential part of the process.”The architecture team worked closely with Terreal North America to develop a gradient range of tiles that animate and anchor the building. Deep tones located at the base of the tower give way to lighter hues as the height increases. The challenge became how to achieve this effect within technical and budgetary constraints. The team worked with three glazes, each with a wide variety of coloration. Percentages of these mixes were then varied. The architects developed a “paint by number” style document to specify the final distribution across the facade, which the installer referenced on site.The unique color blends were created by a proprietary glazing process designed by Ludowici, referred to as their “Impressionist Series.” The process features a random multi-spray matte glaze application that creates a unique finish patterning on every tile. The colors chosen included Terra Cotta, Dark Terra Cotta, and a custom color.
Distinguished from and responding to the terra-cotta tile, the facade of the performance center is marked by a 40-foot-tall metal screen mounted in front of the orchestra rehearsal room’s double-height facade. The installed Centria metal panels have a ridged profile that improves their structural capacity, and vertical shadow lines. The material clads a radiused steel frame, reading as a vertical curtain that peels away from the building envelope to reveal the school's performance spaces.
AN spoke to ABA about the composition and detailing of the facade, which is organized around variable window spacing that relates to the width of student dormitories. “We liked the idea of an inscribed horizontal line that acts visually as a datum that all of these shifting panels could relate to,” said Steve Gerrard, principal at ABA. “It becomes especially important where the windows increase in their frequency. The line is an important compositional tool to relate to each of the floors.” Beyond compositional refinement, the envelope's energy performance allowed for a reduction in HVAC system sizing.Beha said the durability and aesthetic quality of the tile rainscreen cladding was particularly successful. “We see concrete panel structures built all over Boston, and they seem to lose their color, and their quality, so fast. This will not.” Beha concluded, “For me, the painterly aspects of the result are consistent with the issue of urban identity and urban contribution. We wanted a facade worth looking at and considering, and one that brought NEC distinction, dissimilar from others, and enduring, simple, distinguished, in its own way.”ABA said the facade composition reflects the New England Conservatory’s own ambitions: creative, contemporary exploration that combines tradition and innovation. The project was dedicated in a ceremony on September 14th, 2017, and will open to the public the following week with a full day of programming involving performances and talks.
Situated about 20 miles outside of downtown Toronto, the Albion Library has historically been one of the city’s busiest libraries. In need of repairs, the facility was initially slated to be closed and renovated. After a series of consultations and community meetings, the project—led by Perkins + Will Canada—was rethought as a ground-up project. The outcome is a new 35,000-square-foot square-shaped building punctuated by courtyard gardens and interior pavilions. The perimeter is defined by a screen of polychrome terra cotta tiles in bright, unexpected colors, helping to contrast the monotone concrete context that surrounds the site.
NBK Ceramic (terra cotta); Triumph Aluminum & Sheet Metal Inc. (metal panel)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date of Completion
steel frame with heavy timber Douglas fir purlins and beams; structural cedar decking; structural steel studs with terra cotta rain screen and curtain wall
Aerloc Industries Inc. (curtain wall); Triumph Aluminum & Sheet Metal Inc. (metal panel); NBK Keramik GmbH & Co. (terra cotta); Geotone GT000s by Geometrik Manufacturing Inc. (acoustic wood panels)
Andrew Frontini, design director of Perkins+Will Canada, said the project team conceptualized the library as an urban oasis. “We wanted to create a colorful perimeter fence that lifts up to let people in. This screen speaks to both the richness of the community and offerings within the library. The idea of using color and very fine texture as something that materializes and dematerializes led us to use terra cotta."The architects said one of the challenges of the project was resolving two distinctly different facade systems to produce a cohesive wall wrapper that clads walls and screens outdoor spaces as it wraps the square volume of the building. “The challenge was to get everything to align, and to achieve a consistency of detailed expressions when in fact we were dealing with two very different systems."The primary wall assembly is a terra cotta rain screen composed of vertically-oriented hollow-cell tongue-and-groove planks around 3/4-inch thick. These planks are finished in an unglazed beige gray coloration, which acts as a background "field" for more colorfully glazed terra cotta baguettes that are mechanically fastened into a rhythmic patterning on the facade. The terra cotta cladding is mounted on stainless steel clips that provide attachment to a Z-girt system. About one inch beyond the terra cotta cladding sits a conventional rain screen assembly composed of rigid insulation, a vapor barrier, and sheathing over structural steel studs.At the courtyards, a second facade assembly picks up the terra cotta. Upper and lower flashing from the rain screen continues to this screen system, providing visual continuity between the two systems. This screen is composed of two-inch terra cotta baguettes set about two inches apart. The terra cotta is attached back to a steel HSS frame, set precisely to maintain a coplanar finish of terra cotta around the perimeter of the building. The framing allowed for terra cotta to be clad on both the exterior and interior side, which allowed for a more finished look to the courtyards for people using the library.Frontini said the project team very purposefully selected colors for the terra cotta. "We were looking at an array of colors that would be evocative of a floral garden. We wanted something that wasn't immediately apparent in the existing landscape—colors that were distinct from the urban setting, and vibrant so that in the winter the colors would help to animate the interior."Within the framed rain screen assembly, a series of punched windows are camouflaged as continuous vertical ribbons of glass by employing spandrel panels above and below the window opening. Below the terra cotta cladding assembly, which forms a sloped datum as it shifts upward to produce corner entries, a curtain wall system is utilized. This creates a nearly continuous band of transparent glazing around the perimeter of the library. Larger expanses of curtain wall are also employed to the interior side of the courtyards, helping to produce a more transparent separation between library and garden. Low-level radiant heating set into a recessed trench system is located at the curtain wall, helping to produce a draft stop and provide heating to patrons situated at furniture along the perimeter.Above, the library roofscape helps to manage stormwater through a green roof system that partially covers the roof, and through sloped areas which direct water into the landscaped courtyards below."I find that the courtyards are quite magical,” said Frontini. “These pockets of greenery and color bring light deep into the building. Because of these spaces, it's very hard to be far from a window even though you are sitting in a 35,000-square-foot square."
In the countryside outside of Buffalo, New York, Boston Valley Terra Cotta (BVTC) has an impressive industrial terra-cotta operation—a potter’s studio on steroids, with dust and clay scattered around a relatively calm factory. Since 1996 “Rusty” Raymond Conners has spent his days by the window and among his plants, carving intricate designs in the capitals of columns and the faces of tiles.
BVTC started in 1889 as a flower pot business, and has since morphed into one of the leading-edge facade manufacturers in the world, producing a range of baked-clay cladding products that are being used by everyone from Machado Silvetti to Morris Adjmi to Annabelle Selldorf. How did this transformation take place?
In the last five years, something remarkable has happened. In 2011, Omar Khan, associate professor and chair of the Department of Architecture at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning (UB/a+p), and Mitchell Bring, a researcher and adjunct professor, realized the potential in Boston Valley’s operation. Bring has been working with some former students of UB/a+p to incorporate the latest in digital documentation, design, and fabrication technologies to help BVTC remain at the forefront of the terra cotta industry. What started as a couple of interns is now a whole team of digital designers and fabricators.
The digital documentation team uses 3D scan data to enhance more traditional techniques of reproducing historic buildings in preservation projects, such as Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building, or New York’s Woolworth Building, which the company is working to restore at the moment. In order to make the process the most efficient, designers use CAD to rationalize the component parts that make up any large ceramic assembly. In a small corner of the factory stands a digital fabrication shop, now led by UB/a+p alum Peter Schmidt. They work with mesh editing software, a 5-axis CNC router, and a 5-axis CNC hot wire cutter to make models that are then translated into molds for the traditional methods such as hand pressing, ram pressing, or slip casting.
Some worried that these new tools would cut into the work of the skilled craftspeople, such as the sculptors who hand-finish many of the more intricate pieces. However, once implemented, these artists found that they actually had more time to focus on the part that they really enjoy—sculpture—because many of the mundane tasks were cut out of the process. John Ruskin would be proud.
In addition to making traditional techniques more efficient, BVTC and UB are working together to think about how digital technology can allow more experimentation with clay-based building systems. This was the basis for Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop, a week-long conference at UB/a+p, where architects, engineers, artists, and other leaders in the industry came together to share ideas and discuss what might be the future of clay and terra-cotta. The conference was a collaboration of Alfred State University, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, UB/a+p, and Data Clay, an art collective that is pushing the boundaries of digital craft and ceramics.
Keynote speakers were Jason Oliver Vollen, architect and principal of High-Performance Buildings at AECOM in New York; Willam M. McCarthy, ceramics professor at Alfred State University; and Neil Forrest, ceramic artist and educator at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Canada.
“While many architects design with industrially-produced ceramic components, they may have limited material understanding of clay, and most artists and designers trained in ceramics may have few opportunities to explore the medium at a scale beyond the object,” says Bill Pottle, international sales and marketing manager at Boston Valley Terra Cotta, who helped organize the gathering. “By attending this workshop, they will have the opportunity to collaborate and deepen their understanding of and experience with the potential for terra-cotta in the architectural setting.”
Experiments in Clay
What does clay have to offer? What characteristics are unique of clay, and what can it offer that other materials cannot?
To explore these questions, the group of nearly 20 broke off into three groups, each with a balance of engineers, architects, artists, and researchers. Throughout the week in the top floor of UB/a+p, they combined their broad collective knowledge with computers, 3D printers, clay, and a range of drawing tools to experiment with clay.
On the final day, the four groups presented the findings of their charettes and pin-ups. The first group, led by Adjmi, developed BIO CLAD, a panelized system that used the thermal capacities of terra-cotta to enhance the energy performance in residential applications. Terra-cotta panels—TerraClad by BVTC—would collect heat on the outside and run it through a heat exchanger, which would expel it on the inside via a series of radiant heating tubes. Group two presented “Bundled Baguette,” a set of experiments using the baguette, a basic, ceramic tube that is often used as a louver, could be aggregated in several arrangements including a parallel tumbleweed-like cluster.
The third group set out to try new hybridized methods and constructions. They showed an idea that might use raw and fired clay at the same time, with the raw clay acting as a possible medium for humidity control. In another experiment from the week’s workshop, a classic, two-dimensional extrusion is made, with a 3D-printed form grafted on. This would not only be a new technique that hybridizes these tools, but it also would be the first time that a 3D printer would be used for an actual building component, and not just for prototypes or formwork.
The last group was the most experimental, and they displayed a range of technical and artistic experiments, including a “mono-clay assembly,” or a complete, easy-to-produce wall module that relies only on clay bodies for performance. Another experiment used three different colors of clay to create a psychedelic extrusion.
While these experiments were certainly fruitful, for the most part, they were simply conceptual ideas and the prototypes were almost entirely representational. The research—even when rooted in long-running experiments—is still a ways off. That is probably what makes this workshop so important, however. There were no expectations of the week other than to generated ideas, share research, and introduce these practitioners to the Boston Valley enterprise. The caliber of people was matched by the torrent of ideas, and it is only a positive for the future of ceramics in architecture.
Future of Ceramics
What is next for Buffalo? What are Boston Valley and University of Buffalo School of Architecture cooking up?
To understand what is happening at the nexus of Buffalo’s industrial history, university research, state-of-the-art industry partnerships, and the specified knowledge of ceramics, it is important to start with Governor Cuomo and the Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation (NYSTAR) Centers of Excellence. They have set up eleven of these centers around the state to foster collaboration between the academic research community and the business sector. As part of a larger initiative to make Buffalo a center for manufacturing again, they have established the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS) at the University at Buffalo.
There is an ongoing collaboration as part of the Buffalo Center for Excellence called SMART, or the Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies, which will join forces with the Department of Architecture and the Department of Engineering. There will be a second workshop—supported by Boston Valley—in the late summer of 2017, which will focus less on experimentation and more on advanced manufacturing. Thus the increased number of engineers in the second round, as well as a partnership with a company called BuiltWorld a leader in advanced manufacturing.
“The ceramics world is not yet as advanced as far as the digital fabrication world, but that is where we are trying to push it. And Boston Valley is very supportive of this. They are probably the most important manufacturer in the US working with architectural ceramics.” Khan told AN.
"Last year's workshop was an open forum with all the participants owning their intellectual property. BVTC has the right to use that material for publications and advertisement. Moving forward to this year, intellectual property will be more focused as the teams are more deliberately constructed," Khan explained. "Hence the teams will own the intellectual property with Boston Valley and UB having the rights to publish the work unless otherwise requested by the teams. The University is much more formal. This is why industry collaboration normally happens around sponsored research grants, which have clear intellectual property rules with the University as the major beneficiary."
These partnerships are certainly going to push both the school and the industry to the edges of knowledge, and there will be plenty of money to accomplish whatever they can dream up. As with any intra-disciplinary partnership, it is important to remember what the goals are: to push the boundaries of the profession—in this case, ceramics—and to provide the students and faculty with opportunities for learning. If at any time it becomes too proprietary, it could jeopardize the integrity of the research and the value added for the students, the taxpayer, and the university. So far, so good.
In the two years since restoration work on the largely-forgotten Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial restoration in Downtown Los Angeles began, the areas around the isolated military memorial fountain have begun to see signs of change. To the north, the LA Plaza Village project, a new mixed-use development by architects Johnson Fain and landscape architects SWA Group, will likely transform the area when its 355 housing units and 46,000 square feet of commercial spaces come online in 2018. That project will take over several Los Angeles County–owned parking lots occupying the relatively isolated blocks east of the memorial. These formerly-neglected hillside lands are populated mostly by encampments, parking lots, and planted slopes and are relatively difficult to access on foot. The LA Plaza project will feature, however, a central, stepped paseo connecting across several blocks, linking the memorial with the pedestrian life of the Olvera Street area to the east. The Civic Center area to the south of the memorial, meanwhile, is working toward implementing the initial phases of a new, transformative master plan that seeks to convert the bureaucratic enclave into a mixed-use residential neighborhood in its own right.
If there’s anything in the air around these parts, it’s change. Work on the Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial continues in pursuit of these changes, as the fountain—its waters shut off since the 1977 drought—is meticulously restored by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works under the guidance of Conservator Donna Williams and Civic Art Collections Manager Clare Haggarty.
The memorial is located atop the stubborn slope that gives Downtown Los Angeles’s Hill Street its name and is dedicated to the Mormon Battalion and the New York Volunteer American military forces that first raised the American flag over the recently-conquered California territory on July 4th, 1847.
The memorial is situated in a sunken plaza that features a large, running-bond brick expanse on its northernmost end. Next follows the 80-foot-wide waterfall backed by small, colorful tiles. The southernmost portion of the memorial contains a 78-foot by 45-foot terra cotta bas relief installation designed by renowned German sculptor Henry Kreis depicting the flag raising ceremony mentioned above. The bas relief installation also features a trio of symbolic narrative compositions celebrating the area’s conquest via Manifest Destiny. The uppermost panel celebrates the post-indigenous Spanish ranchos and agricultural pioneers of the area. The central panel depicts a “prairie schooner,” a type of stagecoach used by the early American settlers “who made Los Angeles a city,” while the lowest panel celebrates the might of industrial “water and power” that allowed for the region to be inhabited on a mass scale. The overall memorial was designed by Southern California architects Kazumi Adachi and Dike Nagano between 1947 and 1957 and officially dedicated in 1958. The memorial also features a 68-foot-tall triumphal pylon designed by American sculptor Albert Stewart. The pylon is itself embossed by a 16-foot by 11-foot sculpted eagle bas relief and an inscription dedicated to the “brave men and women” who played a role in “extending the frontiers” of the United States westward.Haggarty spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) via email, explaining that work on the memorial restoration is well underway, with the restoration of the waterfall’s tile backing proceeding toward completion. Craftspeople are recreating replacement tiles for the wall by hand in an effort to match the original installation. Haggarty explained that when the waterfall was turned off during the 1977 drought, the monument began to fall into disrepair, but that many of the artistic components are in decent shape, otherwise. She explained, “The materials [like] grout, tiles, etc. started to get brittle and began to delaminate” when the water was originally shut off and that after over 40 years of neglect, “the plumbing for the waterfall needs to be entirely replaced.”
A goal of the restoration is to return the monument to its original function as a fountain, assuming there is enough water to go around. Haggarty explained, “It is supposed to be a fountain and turning it off caused most of the issues. Another big issue is graffiti and prior methods of removal that have done more harm than good.” A broad, sandblasted patch along the brick wall portion of the project is a testament to that fact.
Haggarty and Williams will both be presenting at the Los Angeles Visionary Association salon on Sunday, April 30th. The event, organized by preservation advocates Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, will include lectures from the women behind the restoration project as well as a tour of the restoration site. Schave told AN via email, “The Fort Moore Memorial is a huge part of the downtown landscape, poorly understood, and neglected, and now, thanks to the LA County Arts Commission, it is coming back into focus.” Schave added that the restoration “allows us to reassert the lost history of [Fort Moore] Hill—the demolished layers from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the people who lived there—and the monument itself.”
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.
After nearly ten years, Downtown Brooklyn's City Point—a three-phase, 1.8 million-square-foot mixed-use development—was recently completed. It features a unique assemblage of housing towers—one dedicated to market-rate housing, with another predominantly containing affordable housing—atop a shared retail podium. Designed by New York–based architecture firm COOKFOX, the development is directly adjacent to the planned Willoughby Square Park, Albee Square, and the historic 1908 Dime Savings Bank. The architects said the project is about “tying together Downtown Brooklyn’s grand past with its thriving future.” This is represented through a dynamic faceted massing strategy that responds to a triangular corner lot on Fulton Street, and a white and pale gray terra-cotta rainscreen that subtly reflects the marbled exterior of the century-old bank next door. COOKFOX spokesman Jared Gilbert said when the project began in 2007 only 200 units of housing existed in the neighborhood, which now boasts tens of thousands of units. "We needed to design something that met this new reality of Downtown Brookyln, which is that it is a full-service 24-hour neighborhood."
Shildan (Phase 1); Island International Exterior Fabricators (Phase 2 Tower 1)
COOKFOX Architects with Greenberg Farrow Architects (Phase 1); COOKFOX Architects with SLCE Architects (Phase 2 Tower 1)
Frank Seta & Associates (Phase 2 Tower 1)
Date of Completion
2012 (Phase 1); 2016 (Phase 2 Tower 1)
steel frame with terra-cotta rainscreen (Phase 1); Prefabricated mega-wall panels with standing seam zinc cladding and Skyline aluminum windows (Phase 2 Tower 1)
ALPHATON® Terra-cotta Rainscreen and BAGUETTE® Sunscreen by Shildan, VM Zinc (Phase 1); Rheinzink in “Blue Gray," Rheinzink in “Graphite Gray," Invarimatte Stainless Steel, Skyline Windows (Phase 2 Tower 1)
As architects increasingly confront the issue of contextualism of our cities, terracotta rainscreen manufacturer Shildan is seeing an enormous increase in demand. "We see many more terra-cotta projects each year, with projects getting larger and more complicated. Designers are pushing the envelope to create more complicated shapes, details, and custom finishes, and it’s not just the architects and owners [who] need to be satisfied. We work closely with various kinds of administrators, historic commissions, city planners, government boards and committees, etc—those with a vested interest in seeing the entire context unfold cohesively.”
City Point's Phase One retail base is composed of a typical stick built facade with layers of waterproofing and insulation over stick built metal stud construction. An applied rainscreen system by Shildan is installed by first mounting a framework of sub-girts with integral clips to the facade. The open joint terra-cotta panels are then hung off this system.
Moshe Steinmetz, president of Shildan, said City Point was a milestone terra-cotta project in the US for its incorporation of custom blends of glazes and profiles. "There has been more and more demand for unique glazing. We are now seeing unique glazing on the terra-cotta on about 50% of our jobs." Steinmetz says terra-cotta has a particular "wow factor" that provides an owner an exterior facade system that has energy savings, incorporates healthy wall construction (open joint rainscreen systems minimize mold and mildew growth), low maintenance, and high durability. He says 30- and 40-year-old terra-cotta systems are clearly outperforming other building components: "You don't see the age of the building on the terra-cotta material - you see it elsewhere in the the windows and other finishes."
The architects incorporated two terra-cotta extrusions into the design that are finished in a series of glazes and colors that helps to randomize the facade. The resulting variation promotes what their office calls an interest in the concept of biophilia—people’s natural affiliation to the complexity of natural patterns in the world. This subtle variation in the glaze and the variation in profiles and the way they are randomly deployed is to create a somewhat more natural pattern and rhythm,” said Susie Teal, senior associate at COOKFOX.
This interest in patterning can also be seen in Phase Two, which was recently completed. At over 1 million square feet, this phase includes a retail podium and two residential towers that involve separate developers with separate programs. Teal said Tower One includes 80% affordable housing and features a “low-budget facade system” composed of prefabricated “megapanels,” unitized 10-by-40-foot panels, by Island International Exterior Fabricators in a defunct Long Island-based airplane hanger. The panels were craned off a truck, set onto the facade, and gasketed together for rapid assembly.
The wall panels are finished in a standing seam zinc with staggered spacing varying from 5-inches, 10-inches, and 20-inches. Randomly locating the zinc standing seams helped the architects visually conceal large 1-inch joints while mimicking a more varied natural pattern. "This helps to blend in a construction system so you don't see a lot of seams," said Teal. “Also, zinc is a natural material—most famously used in Parisian roofs. It lasts a long time and patinas dependent on the local atmospheric conditions. The north side might end up weathering different than the south side. This was all intentional. In order to watch this material change, we have randomly distributed stainless steel panels that will stay bright and shiny.”
A new 34,000-square-foot residential building in New York'sNoho neighborhood resonates with a landmarked district of highly crafted facades by echoing their predominantly low-rise scales, regular structural bay rhythms, and large windows. The 11-unit building is located on Bond Street—a two-block street that has become notable for its wave of contemporary architecture (Herzog & de Meuron's first residential project in the United States, as well as buildings by Deborah Berke Partners, and BKSK Architects, among others). Among these recent projects, 10 Bond Street, designed by New York-based Selldorf Architects, further adds to a context where historic and contemporary architecture coexist in complementary fashion.
Sara Lopergolo, partner at Selldorf Architects, said that the project team was inspired by the deep russet colored brick of existing buildings adjacent to the project site on Lafayette Street. "Working on the proportions and the scale of the building was important to us. We wanted to find something very grounded in the neighborhood, but also present a contemporary face for this new building.”
Selldorf Architects worked with Boston Valley Terra Cotta to design a rainscreen cladding of profiled panels in a custom glaze. The panels are trimmed with weathered steel, which rises beyond the facade to frame a rooftop terrace. On grade, the entry is marked with a mahogany ship-lapped siding.
Boston Valley Terra Cotta
Crowne Architectural Systems
Frank Seta & Associates, LLC
New York City, NY
Date of Completion
reinforced concrete with terra cotta rainscreen
Weathered steel from FacadeTek; Custom glazed terra cotta and standard Terraclad panels from Boston Valley; Exterior shades: Nysan-Hunter Douglas Windows: Peerless Storefront windows and corner windows: YKK; Masionette exterior and garage door: Mahogany ship-lapped siding with marine grade clear finish; Penthouse Trellis: Weathered steel structure with mahogany louvers
According to Lopergolo, the terra-cotta manufacturing process is akin to an “advanced Play-Doh machine,” allowing the production of highly specific custom shapes and colors. “We've been working with terra-cotta for a very long time and like to think of this as our material even though others are using it. What is so lovely about it is that its color is customizable, and that you can shape it anyway you like. The glaze creates a certain depth and character that you can't get out of other materials. The way the light catches it is very nice.”
Bill Pottle, Boston Valley's international sales manager, said that the two companies have collaborated on a handful of projects. “Around 2000, the first terra-cotta rainscreen job came to the United States. Since then, the material has become very popular—it has grown from something rarely used by architects to a material that has made it into an everyday palette. 10 Bond Street is part of a second wave of terra-cotta jobs we are seeing that incorporate larger, more three-dimensional shaped pieces, not just flat rainscreen panels.” In the case of 10 Bond, the panels were manufactured around 36-inches long and weighed in at around 150 pounds each. The larger, more complex panels require more thought be put into the detailing of attachment clips. According to Boston Valley, often this results in modification of standard clip details, or in some cases the development of a one-off custom attachment detail.
According to Pottle, most terra-cotta panels have a shrinkage rate of around seven percent, which is accommodated by digital software when producing dye geometry. "We use the same clay body mixtures and the same formulas so we can determine the shrinkage rate well before production." To help manage shrinkage throughout the process, the panels are constructed with a hollow core that incorporates webs to support a scalloped profile. The backs of the panels are flat to allow for the pieces to lay on a flat surface throughout the curing and glazing process.
Full-size mock-ups allowed the architects to confirm a specific coloration and helped the project team to finalize custom attachment clip detailing. Lopergolo said one of the challenges with the weight of the panels was ensuring open joints between panels were dimensionally uniform. Pottle said the mock-up process is also an essential opportunity for the manufacturer to confirm quality control. Mock-ups allowed Boston Valley to see how the custom dyes were performing and helped ensure the extrusion process ran properly prior to the upcoming production phase. They will examine the extrusion process for quality control and confirm the rate of shrinkage of the pieces is accurate.
A skewed street grid presented the design team with what Lopergolo called a "fun and challenging" floor plan layout exercise. A living room location at the southwest corner receives a wrap around corner window unit, and benefits from an automated exterior shading system, which is integrated into the buildings two primary facades—a southeastern and southwestern exposure. Occupants can override sensors that drive exterior shade motors.
Selldorf Architects, who work on a range of project types—galleries, museums, housing—said its work with New York Landmarks Preservation Commission is especially significant. "We enjoy working with Landmarks—what they contribute is important for the city. With these condominium buildings, of course, the goal is to make nice apartments for our clients, but we also see this as an opportunity to give back to the city. We're very proud of this project—we'll still receive random emails from strangers saying they passed by the building and loved it—it is very sweet that people take the time to do that."
A new market-rate micro-housing project in San Francisco's Hayes Valley—developed in tandem with a new clubhouse for the Boys and Girls Club—features 70 studio and two-bedroom apartments clustered around a courtyard with ample, secure bicycle parking. The wood-framed housing structure sits atop a concrete podium housing retail spaces just off the main Hayes Street corridor. The new construction project continues development of vacated land caused by the collapse and removal of the Central Freeway.
The project—designed by David Baker Architects, which has designed and built more than 10,000 dwelling units—achieves a density of 240 bedrooms per acre, and consists of 40-percent two-bedroom units located at each corner and facing the courtyard. This is the result of a policy by the city to allow new residential developments to accommodate families. The other apartments are classified as micro-units, ranging from 325 to 400-square-feet. These compact studio apartments embrace an "affordability by design" concept, which, according to David Baker Architects, has “proven popular with younger professionals, as well as seniors.”
One of the most contentious issues of the project was a large corner bay clad in a custom glazed tile. The bay's massing spans the entire end of the building, out of scale when compared with a typical vernacular bay, however, the architects say this feature is rooted in careful planning and urbanistic principles. The positive and negative forms of 388 Fulton and the Richardson Apartments across the street—another project by David Baker Architects—make a frame for the City Hall dome two blocks away.
Fireclay Tile (glazed thin brick veneer); James Hardie (fiber-cement siding); Golden State Steel (sun shade fabrication); Peerless Architectural Windows and Doors (aluminum windows)
David Baker Architects
Fisher Development Inc. (General Contractor)
Glazed Thin Brick in Inkwell and custom colors by Fireclay Tile; ENERGSAVE by Peerless Architectural Windows and Doors (aluminum windows); HardiPanel & HardieTrim (fiber-cement siding)
The black coloration was produced from custom low fire glazed tile sourced from local clay. An artisan tile company glazed the brick with a palette of five subtle variations on a standard “Inkwell” black color. The architects specified a repeating pattern for the colors, which Baker said sometimes gets mistaken for being a uniform color. "The different tile colors added a richness to the composition, which one color would not have provided."
The thin tile was set directly onto a mortar bed over a cement plastered wood-framed wall. Expansion joints coordinate with punched window openings for a clean composition. The stacked bond tile also integrates precisely with vents on the facade, which required careful coordination between the contractor and architect. The windows in the curved mega-bay have a custom extra-deep extrusion to accommodate the thickness of the glazed tiles.
Computer analysis from programs like Autodesk Ecotect was used to optimize perforated aluminum sunshades on the curved facade and west-facing windows. Design criteria included the relative amount of solar radiation that would hit each window for different times of the day and year, including shade from the building, neighboring buildings, and sunshades. After several iterations, the design resulted in a combination louver-and-fin for windows along the curved bay, and a vertical fin of varying length along the west-facing facade. The shapes of these elements were standardized into three repeatable configurations for fabrication efficiency while minimizing solar radiation during the afternoons in late spring and early fall, particularly into studio units with challenging western exposure.
Baker said the project team integrated a lot of fun detailing into the project: “The large curved bay is the signature of the building, and something we put a lot of energy into. We took fairly humble materials, and made them look crisp and sleek." A trademark example of this design approach is the “random batten system,” a phrase coined by the office for an aesthetically driven approach to installation of fiber-cement trim board. Baker called this "ranch house technology." The assembly calls for standard fiber cement board trim to be applied in a randomized pattern, transforming a ubiquitous board and batten system into what Baker said, "Looks like something that you would order from Italy."
Kevin Daly Architects recently completed an addition to UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music that sets a new framework for the school’s future growth and presents a new face for the music building. The Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center is the second addition to the 1950s structure that was previously augmented in the 1980s. Sited within UCLA’s campus of over 200 buildings, the project was regulated by campus design standards that define a material palette consisting of a “UCLA blend brick,” along with buff stone, terra-cotta, and concrete. According to UCLA’s Physical Design Framework, these are “enduring materials that express a quality of permanence and durability.” The standards reference the first four buildings constructed on campus nearly 100 years ago, in a red brick romanesque revival style.
A terra-cotta rainscreen system was ultimately specified for its performative qualities, which helped the building achieve UCLA’s required energy standards – a significant 20% better than state energy codes. Open joints in the finish material promote natural ventilation and solar shading. This assembly provides higher R-values throughout the exterior facade by allowing for a continuous layer of insulation, and helps to eliminate air infiltration. The cladding system also allowed for a relatively standard CMU exterior wall construction.
KDA collaborated across the country with East Coast-based terra-cotta manufacturer Shildan to produce the custom facade material. Kevin Daly, founder of KDA, described this design process as a “collaboration to get [a] contemporary material to fit within a historic campus.” Bricks from UCLA’s campus were sent to the Mount Laurel, New Jersey company who color matched them to their standard color palette.
Shildan Group (terracotta)
Kevin Daly Architects
Los Angeles, CA
Date of Completion
Terracotta rainscreen over insulated CMU shell
Alphaton Terracotta Rainscreen & Baguette Terracotta Sunscreen Systems (Shildan); Aluminum curtainwall system (Arcadia); Steel glazing system at acoustical windows (Arcadia); Ombra Honeycomb insulated glass unit insert (Pulp Studio)
Daly said their desire for this project to produce a more natural effect pushed Shildan to do something slightly different than what they normally do: "In a lot of the industry, the focus is to produce super consistent results, so that by the time you wrap the building with material, the end matches where you began. We wanted to do something different. We wanted to introduce a slight variation that was consistent enough to look like it was all from one palette, but at the same time was not a factory-produced tightly controlled material."
In response, Shildan developed a custom fabrication process that produced this variation. Six tile styles were created with various glazing and firing techniques on two standard color finishes. The panels, made from 35% recycled content, were selectively left in the firing process longer than typical, while others were fired under slightly different temperatures, introducing variation to the material qualities of the panels. A number of mockups developed some basic ground rules for the design team based on campus guidelines. KDA worked with available terra-cotta samples to demonstrate their idea before developing the mockups into full-scale test systems.
The desire to produce variation in terra-cotta is not unique, but the methods employed at Ostin are notable. At Lawrence Public Library, Gould Evans introduced variation to their facade by designing a combination of grooved and smooth panels, specifically controlling the panel texture. At UCLA, KDA’s facade produced variation through the materials manufacturing process and by a panel rotation, casting shadows over the facade for an additional natural layer of perceived color variation.
Focusing on the contextual specificity of their project within the historic campus setting, KDA introduced an additional level of detail to the facade. Grooves etched into the terra-cotta panel register course lines found in standard brick on campus. A louvered screen at Knusten Hall, which faces the music center from across a public plaza, provided the basis for a significant sunshading system marking the west facing main entrance. Fixed in place diamond-shaped terra-cotta baguettes framed off a secondary steel structure spring from an expansive curtainwall. The system is saturated in UCLA’s classic “buff” limestone color.
The curtainwall system features what Daly calls a “transparent shading system,” integrating an extruded polycarbonate honeycomb material into the insulated glass layers to provide an extra layer of solar protection. At the corners of the faceted building, a reverse mitered edge trim out of painted aluminum protects the open end of the terra-cotta panels, while “fins” set proud of the undulating facade surface help articulate the texture of the facade by casting shadows registering the varied angles of the panels onto the building.
The interior acoustical spaces provide a unique cladding design that was driven by economy and the desire to create a dynamic environment. KDA worked with Newson Brown Acoustics to develop a design that utilizes three repetitively cut douglas fir and spruce shapes. These panels were re-assembled into layers to produce a complex surface patterning which was flexible enough to expand or contract the quantity of exposed absorptive acoustical material.