2021 ACAW Team Receives Recognition for Collaborative Project, V-Soleil

TITLE: Award: V-Soleil
SOURCE: Architect Magazine
AUTHOR: Murrye Bernard
DATE: 08.18.2022
IMAGES: Architecture Research Office

In 2021,  Architecture Research Office (ARO), Heintges Consulting, and fabricator TriPyramid Structures teamed up to participate in the 6th annual Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW), to explore the exterior envelope applications of terra cotta with the goal to create an abstraction of a natural screen on large-scale facades. That collaboration resulted in V-Soleil, a curtain-like brise soleil inspired by organic forms of leaf and vine structures as well as the geometry of traditional diamond-patterned espalier trees. The system was recognized by ARCHITECT magazine with a 2022 R+D Award. Now in its 16th year, the R+D Awards program honors research and technologies at every scale that have advanced the profession—from design strategies and building products to fabrication methods, installations, software, and materials.

V-Soleil is made up of a single V-shaped glazed terra cotta module that interlocks with adjacent modules to create a diamond-shaped screen. Depending on the orientation of the façade, the module’s orientation and overlap with its adjacent module changes in order to optimize its shading capacity.

“The deep research and iterative prototyping development behind V-Soleil is so thoughtful and unique. The form and array of the modules are strikingly beautiful, and the analysis of how the terra-cotta forms can be aggregated, altered based on façade orientation, and replaced if needed, perfectly demonstrates the rigor and creativity of the team behind this project.” —Juror Kat Schneider


V-Soleil’s curtain-like terra-cotta brise soleil provides shade from the sun. Image courtesy Architecture Research Office


The V-Soleil system comprises interlocking V-shaped glazed terra-cotta modules that are supported on a double-layer tension net structure. Image courtesy Architecture Research Office


At ACAW, the team explored slip-cast and ram-pressed methods for producing the units at the Boston Valley facility, learning from the glaze specialists about the aesthetic and manufacturing implications of through-body and glaze options. Another area of exploration was the connection between the terra cotta unit and the cable, including ways to allow units to be replaced without disassembly of the system. 

ACAW is a hands-on research and development workshop for architects and façade engineers to explore the use of terra cotta in high-performance façade design. The workshop’s objective is to introduce and consider the properties of terra cotta earlier in the architect’s design process and to develop research and design models between manufacturing and architectural industries useful for the efficient production of high-performance façade solutions.

Read the full ARCHITECT magazine article here.

You can watch the team’s 2021 presentation here.

If you’re interested in learning more about ACAW or participating in a future workshop, visit

The biophilic facade design created at ACAWorkshop 2021 consists of separate modules for bird, bee, and plant habitats.

Buro Happold and COOKFOX explore biophilic façades at ACAW 2021

TITLE: COOKFOX and Buro Happold design living facade for the birds and the bees
SOURCE: The Architect’s Newspaper
AUTHOR: Chris Walton
DATE: 05.25.2022


The Architect’s Newspaper has published a recap detailing the collaboration between COOKFOX’s Spencer Lapp and Buro Happold’s Andre Parnther that took place at the ACAWorkshop in 2021. The team aimed to reimagine the exterior façade as much-needed habitat space for birds, bees, and plants in the urban environment.

Both COOKFOX and Buro Happold have prior experience working with terra cotta in NYC, taking part in past Boston Valley fabrication projects The Fitzroy and 512 West 22nd Street.


A planter module to the left; bee habitat and bird nest modules to the right. Photo courtesy of Buro Happold/COOKFOX.


Through extensive process and pattern studies, Lapp and Parnther developed a biophilic design consisting of a modular system of slip cast pods. Each module is shaped to occupy a specific function in the local ecosystem: as bird nests, with proper air flow and drainage; as bee habitats, protected from the elements; and as planters, with a bottom-watering system and overflow drain.

Lapp and Parnther considered a number of color palettes for the assembly’s exterior glazing, working with Boston Valley’s glaze lab to eventually settle on a study of luster, blue, and white. Subtle variations often emerge during the glazing process due to factors such as the color being used, differences in firing temperature, and how the glaze pools along the profile.


Variations in color and distribution emerge in the glazing process.


The team had to address a number of questions over the course of their prototype development, resulting in a few changes to the design. One of the benefits of ACAW is it provides a valuable “sandbox” space where architects and engineers can explore and refine experimental concepts such as this one. In several instances, prototypes conceived at ACAW have gone on to become real, built projects, including the new Orange County Museum of Art’s curved panel façade.

Read the full article here.


COOKFOX’s Spencer Lapp and Zach Grzybowski work with Buro Happold’s Andre Parnther to assemble the prototype.


UB teams with Alfred University to advance stackable ceramic façade prototype

A team of UB architecture faculty and students has developed a stackable ceramic facade system that opens new possibilities in user-generated architecture and sculptural geometries in terra cotta.

Architectural Terra-Cotta is Tough, Lightweight, Versatile, and Green

Why do so many companies of size and prominence take part in ACAW? Perhaps the question should be: “Why wouldn’t they?”

Permasteelisa Group at the Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop 2021

Permasteelisa Group developed the bespoke curtain wall system and assembled the mock-up – 5.2m/17′ high by 3.7m/12′ wide – from components made by Boston Valley and TriPyramid.