2016 was our inaugural event, and it was a great success for all involved.

The properties and potential of ceramic materials were understood through hands-on engagement. Material, craft, industry, and architecture were the focus of this workshop.

With the advent of modern climate control systems, the building skin quickly became an envelope to demarcate the consistency of man-made interior space from the vicissitudes of the natural environment. Increasingly, building envelopes are tasked with creating a more active role in negotiating these two environments. The Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop aims to explore the potential of module ceramic components to operate in this regard.

Earthen materials, as one of the first construction technologies, by default maintain a connection to the environment. Historically, ceramic materials have offered a variety of different thermal, hydraulic, and day lighting performance opportunities: porous clay bodies can function as breathable volumes for planters or as evaporative cooling surfaces in arid climates, their thermal mass can be used to offset extreme diurnal cycles. 

While these historical examples remain as potent as ever, emerging technologies can now aid in the design and production of ceramic components as well as the calibration of their thermal properties with their effects on the built and inhabited environment. The molding and forming techniques involved in ceramic production often produce vessel forms, which can now be aggregated and networked to create large-scale systems of fluid storage and distribution such as radiant water heaters and trombe walls. The ability to simulate and calculate thermal, lighting, and fluid dynamics offers the potential to digitally model and produce ceramic components which can operate as shade screens calibrated to allow more sunlight to penetrate at precise moments of the day and year.

Cool Brick ceramic evaporative cooling modules, Emerging Objects / Virginia San Fratello & Ronald Rael

While ceramic materials have played a crucial role in building construction until the mid-20th century, recently their possibilities for thermal performance have been relatively unexplored since the invention of the curtain wall. As buildings and their envelopes have become increasingly larger, it becomes even more significant to test the potential impact of ceramic systems that move beyond the scale of brick masonry buildings and turn-of-the-century terra cotta façades.

Adding to this is the aging building stock of most American urban centers. In particular, many of the components of these original curtain walls are reaching the end of their life spans as gaskets and fasteners deteriorate. For many of these inefficient structures, it may prove more cost and resource effective to preserve and re-clad their original framework with new sustainable envelopes that update both materiality and ethos appropriate for the next century and beyond.

The design provocation for the 2016 Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop will challenge architects, artists, designers, and engineers to address the untapped potential for ceramic component systems to create large-scale bioclimatic structures and environments.

2016 TEAMS


Jason Vollen AIA

High-Performance Buildings Leader, AECOM

Jason Oliver Vollen AIA, is Principal, High Performance Buildings, and the State & Local Market Leader for the NY Metro District at AECOM. His practice is focused on leveraging the intersection of energy, finance and policy to deliver high performance and sustainable design solutions that reduce both capital and operating costs to deliver solutions that are Net Zero Energy capable. In addition to this role Jason is the Chief Operating Officer of Fresh Air Building Systems LLC, which has commercialized the Active Modular Phytoremediation System, a bio mechanical air filtration system, and is a co-founder of EcoCeramics LLC which is developing a ceramic-based energy transfer building envelope. 

Prior to joining AECOM, Vollen was the Associate Director at the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology, an academic industrial research alliance between Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he was a tenured professor.  His research focuses primarily on next generation building envelope development and emerging material technologies where he takes an integrated approach utilizing the first principles of building physics in order to provide lower energy intensities while improving occupant comfort. Vollen’s research has been funded by the NSF, DOE, NREL, NYSERDA and the AIA and he has won numerous awards for next generation building systems design and has multiple building system patents under review.

William M. Carty

Ph.D., Alfred University

Dr. William Carty is the John F. McMahon Professor and Chair of Ceramic Engineering at Alfred University.  He received a B.S. and M.S. in Ceramic Engineering from UMR (Missouri), a Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Washington, and joined Alfred University in 1993.  He teaches extensively (engineering classes during the school year and “Ceramic Science for the Artist” workshops in the summer) and has research all aspects of traditional ceramics production.  He is a frequent contributor to NCECA, has learned to speak the proper language (i.e., the language of the artist), and has an unbridled passion for understanding the why of ceramics.

Neil Forrest

Ceramics Faculty Member, NSCAD University

Neil Forrest is an internationally exhibiting ceramic artist and professor at NSCAD University (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) and a research relationship with The Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHIO) in Norway.
Forrest’s earlier ceramic works developed an idea of synthetic landscape fragments that would colonize built spaces. These micro- and macro-structures offer architectonic strategies of aggregation and connective systems to extend the reach of ceramics as long chains or complex matrixes as part of post-modern space. His recent ideas discuss place, architecture and specific historical events around modernity and national identity. Forrest is involved in a multi-year research grant called ‘Porøs,’ in conjunction with The Oslo National Academy of the Arts. The project originates in the nature of clay itself – how porosity works as expressive instrument.

Forrest received his Masters from Alfred University in New York, his BFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and diploma from Sheridan College of Craft.

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