Interdisciplinary Ceramic Research Center (ICRC) Facade Installation

Corner of building featuring terracotta tile installation
The newly established Interdisciplinary Ceramic Research Center (ICRC) supports interdisciplinary research projects in clay-based media within an existing warehouse. Third-year architecture students in residency at the facility designed and fabricated terracotta tiles using a hybrid workflow that merged digital technologies with traditional ceramics. Executed over two consecutive semesters, two distinct installations showcased clay as an adaptive and innovative material for architectural (and other) applications.

Installation #1, titled “Tectonic,” was derived from microscopic images of clay crystals and arranged to suggest stratified geological formations. Interspersed aluminum tiles contrast the clay and reflect light of passing cars to activate the installation and suggest hydrologic or metallurgic deposits in the geological cross section. The installation is prominently located to advertise the function of the building – an otherwise unmarked warehouse that was previously slated for demolition.

Installation #2, titled “Terra-Mura,” integrates pollinator hotels and bird houses juxtaposed by natural woodland near the building. Habitat boxes were surrounded by clay tiles inspired by oyster mushrooms and other natural textures. The tiles have fin-like features that self-shade and reduce direct solar gain on the façade as part of ongoing research on sustainable façade systems.

Both installations utilized digital design and fabrication tools to develop designs and molds in the production of clay tiles. Students worked with ceramic faculty, artists in residence and external professionals to learn pressing techniques (traditional and contemporary), kiln firing, glazing and other clay-based craft. Track mounting system was donated by an international terracotta façade company and modified to support the tiles.

Year: 2021
Location: Lawrence, Kansas
Course: Arch 509 Designbuild Studio
Instructor: Keith Van de Riet

Students: Natalie Anderson, Donovan Brook, Brennan Davies, Bethany Dulin, Olivia Erickson, Eliott Freeman, Tayler Grinnell, Jack Heller, Drake Johnson, Jacob Lentin, Emily Low, Haoxun Ma, Jeffrey Mcbee, Mal Michel, Ericka Nadeau, Christina Nelson, Ryan Nguyen, Ethan Sandburg, Will Steinauer, Thomas Tabor, Liam Tepen, Rodolfo Tovar, Sloan Walters

Partner/Client: KU Interdisciplinary Ceramic Research Center; KU Ceramics Department

Sponsors: NBK Terracotta, Private Donors via LaunchKU, Fastenal

Vendors: Bracker’s Good Earth Clays

Media: “Interdisciplinary Ceramic Research Center (ICRC) Façade Installation,” Architecture Masterprize