In 2019, HGA was designing the Center for Arctic Studies (CAS) at Bowdoin College. Initially, the plan was to use stacked stone planks (granite, quartz, gneiss, or slate) with mortar to create a brick veneer. HGA had used this approach in previous projects, such as the Lakewood Mausoleum and Brooklyn Park Library. Due to budget constraints, HGA had to opt for a more cost-effective solution — long-format brick.
The shift from stone to clay presented challenges — it restricted the masonry unit’s dimensions to the standard brick sizes available, losing a crucial aspect of the original design intent. Working with Studio NYL, HGA decided to revisit their original CAS cladding concept for the 2023 ACAWorkshop, exploring custom extruded terra cotta baguettes.
The modular extruded baguettes designed by HGA are hollow and feature a live edge. The bricks offer benefits beyond aesthetics, including strength, weight optimization, and the capacity to create longer lengths compared to dense stone. Boston Valley Terra Cotta was able to fabricate the long-format bricks with attention to efficiency, while the glaze and finish options of terra cotta provide a premium finish without stone’s associated costs. Boston Valley also had a one-third reduction in clay usage compared to a traditional long-format brick.
At the ACAWorkshop in August, the full-scale assembly mockup was constructed by the masons of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 NY, supported by the International Masonry Institute, who donated the cost of labor and anchors for the project. The masons noted that the product sets up quicker than traditional brick because terra cotta is more absorbent. Combined with its reduced weight, lower embodied carbon, and simplicity of installation, this makes the HGA prototype an attractive option for masonry.
Boston Valley Terra Cotta encourages architects who prefer working with architectural ceramics to consider this method for future façade projects. In the world of architecture, innovation is the cornerstone of progress. Boston Valley is excited to offer custom extruded terra cotta long-format brick, with endless finish and glaze options — a bold choice that will shape the aesthetics, efficiency, and sustainability of future façades.