ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, RIOS + Arup

Bridging Nature and Architecture: RIOS + Arup’s TerraClad® Assembly at ACAW 2023

RIOS Website: Terracotta Façade Research – A High-Performance, Green Façade

SOURCE: RIOS website

At the Architectural Ceramic Assembly Workshop (ACAW) in August 2023, team RIOS + Arup explored the concept of biodiversity and interconnectivity with a habitable assembly of TerraClad® rainscreen panels and masonry block. The assembly system’s adaptability and sustainable design ensure a reduced environmental impact.


ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, RIOS + Arup

ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, RIOS + Arup


An in-depth account of their assembly process was recently shared on the RIOS website. The research team conducted a series of studies that investigated material properties, forming methods, and panelization informed by structural analysis. The terra cotta brise soleil incorporated planters and pollinator units, forming a porous, living façade.

View the RIOS ACAW 2023 presentation here.


ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, RIOS + Arup

ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, RIOS + Arup

ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, HGA Architects

A Cost-Effective Masonry Solution: Terra Cotta Long-Format Brick

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.


ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, HGA Architects


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.


ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, HGA Architects


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.


ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, HGA Architects


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.

ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, Eric Parry Architects, The Architect's Newspaper

The Architect’s Newspaper Reports on ACAW 2023

Firms develop ceramic prototypes for Boston Valley Terra Cotta’s 2023 ACAW Workshop

SOURCE: The Architect’s Newspaper
Trevor Schillaci
DATE: 09.06.23

Included in the coverage of the 2023 ACAWorkshop is an article by The Architect’s Newspaper, reported on by program assistant Trevor Shillaci. Media attention such as this on ACAW is invaluable, as it increases awareness of the annual event within the architectural and engineering fields. The ultimate goal of holding the workshop is to encourage collaboration within the industry, and to help professionals develop a greater understanding of using terra cotta for high performance façade design.

Below are excerpts from the article featuring a few of the team prototype contributions:


Pickard Chilton + Magnusson Klemencic Associates

This team deviated from the rest, developing a prototype for a terra cotta staircase instead of a facade system. The staircase demonstrated that terra cotta is also viable as a structural material. After studying several different configurations, the team settled on a system where the stair treads rest on a single structural stringer. The anatomical properties of a whale spine served as an inspiration for the design of the staircase.

ACAW 2023 prototype by Team Pickard Chilton. ©Dan Cappellazzo


Selldorf Architects + Socotec

The team from Selldorf drew upon their work from previous projects in collaboration with Boston Valley Terra Cotta. In creating their facade prototype, the team worked to reduce the overall weight of the ram-pressed tiles, ultimately achieving a nearly 60 percent reduction. The final product, which features an undulating wave pattern, was the result of extensive modeling to investigate various curvatures expressed as sine waves. Alternations of convex and concave curvatures were the result. The pigment utilized in the glaze was sourced from industrial metals, primarily iron oxides, found in slag-waste from an industrial site.

ACAW 2023 prototype by Team Selldorf Architects. ©Dan Cappellazzo


Eric Parry Architects + FMDC Ltd.

Designers from Eric Parry Architects shared the firm’s use of terra cotta for an ongoing project involving Fishmongers’ Hall on the river Thames in London. While the designers initially intended to use stone masonry for the project, it was ultimately too heavy for use. Complying with this year’s biophilic theme, different species of plant, as well as lichen and moss, were tested on a prototype, which will inform the design of the London project. When glazing the terra cotta, the team experimented with a speckled pattern which was counted and modeled to make sure that the specks of color were applied “uniformly” to the structure.

Read the full article here.

ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Facade Prototype, Ceramic Assembly, Terra Cotta, Pickard Chilton

That’s a Wrap! ACAW 2023 Overview

At the 2023 Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW), eight professional teams explored new depths in the flexibility and functionality of terra cotta as a material for façade design. Several themes emerged from this year’s 10-month-long research workshop, which culminated at the August 17th Symposium with team presentations.

Biophilic & Bioclimatic Design

Throughout the year, several teams prototyped their projects to address climate concerns and sustainability. These designs take into consideration the aesthetics of terra cotta combined with vegetation, as well as metrics including embodied carbon, durability, thermal value, light reflection, and fabrication efficiency.

Team Eric Parry prototyped their project for a building adjacent to Fishmonger’s Hall, located on the north bank of the Thames River in London. Their research referenced moss and lichen growing on terra cotta to develop a glaze that was reverse-engineered from a historical Ruskin Pottery technique.

Team Henning Larsen’s aim was to reimagine a façade as organic habitat. A white crackle glaze with directional spray was applied to 12” x 30” standard tiles with variation in height and openings that will encourage moss to grow.

Team RIOS explored the concept of biodiversity and interconnectivity with a habitable modular assembly of TerraClad® rainscreen panels and masonry block. Their traditional green wall was designed to be interactive for occupants using a series of planters, serving both human and pollinating visitors in an interstitial space.


ACAW 2023 prototype by Team Eric Parry


ACAW 2023 prototype by Team Henning Larsen


ACAW 2023 prototype by Team RIOS

Transitional Space

Team CO Architects explored the ambiguity of “inside-out” by designing a 360° terra cotta screen with a single module and multiple variations. CO’s use of glazed and unglazed V-shaped units was derived from studying origami folds, blurring the line between the front and back sides of the terra cotta.

Team Pickard Chilton created a structural terra cotta stairway using an angled stringer with tension rods — gaskets evened out the balance to establish compressive force. The terra cotta stair treads were finished with a glaze and texture application that wrapped around the nose.


ACAW 2023 prototype by Team CO Architects


ACAW 2023 prototype by Team Pickard Chilton

Structural Design

Team Selldorf Architects focused on the ornamental expression of terra cotta and its textured depth. They succeeded in halving the weight of their rainscreen by reducing the subframe, forming thermal ridges in the terra cotta, and cutting down on material use.

Team HGA created a long format brick that has the form’s modularity, but the finish texture of stone. Due to their design’s hollow structure, its embodied carbon is less than traditional brick and stone. The extruded baguette offered a variety of surfaces to work with: glazed, unglazed, and a broken edge concept.

Team ZGF’s screen prototype centered on building performance and flexibility post-construction. The 2-sided modular system featured glazed RAM-pressed terra cotta units on a vertical rod system for support. The versatile assembly could also serve as an aesthetic piece.


ACAW 2023 prototype by Team Selldorf Architects


ACAW 2023 prototype by Team HGA


ACAW 2023 prototype by Team ZGF

ACAW exists to help architects understand the properties of terra cotta, so they can more effectively design manufacturable and constructable façade solutions. ACAW 2023 provided an opportunity for interdisciplinary teams to explore new themes and discover workable solutions for functional systems.

Stay tuned for future blogs where we will take a more in-depth look into this year’s assemblies.

ACAW 2023, ACAWorkshop, Architectural Record, facade design, facade prototypes, terra cotta facades, architecture firms

Architectural Record Covers the 2023 ACAWorkshop

The Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop Returns to Probe the Future of Terra Cotta

SOURCE: Architectural Record
Matthew Marani
DATE: 08.24.23

The 2023 ACAWorkshop took place in Buffalo, NY last month from August 14-17th. Participants and attendees gathered in the Marriott at LECOM Harborcenter for the public Symposium event on Thursday, where each team presented the results of their months-long prototype development. The day was rounded out with a closing keynote speech by Orel Samson, Senior Manager at Allied Properties REIT.

In attendance during ACAW week was Matthew Marani, editor for Architectural Record. Below are excerpted passages from Marani’s article recounting his experience.

The professional teams present at this year’s ACAW were, for the most part, composed of paired-up architects and engineers, and featured familiar faces and new attendees. Notably, the workshop featured six academic teams, a significant expansion from years past, which, according to Carnegie Melon University Head of Architecture and workshop organizer Omar Khan, is a result of growing interest in ceramics within architectural programs, especially in the area of 3D printing.[…] “Maintaining six academic programs every year would be ideal as their work brings a fresh perspective that is a bit more experimental and also provides us with an opportunity to support emerging pedagogies at these institutions,” noted Khan.

The prototypes were conceptually developed in the months leading up to the workshop and featured exciting applications of the material. For example, New Haven, Connecticut–based Pickard Chilton and Seattle’s Magnusson Klemencic Associates drew upon a series of precedents, such as the work of Rafael Guastavino, to develop a terra cotta stairwell supported by a post-tensioned spine, that, in its glazing and finish, resembles something of a mix between a scrimshaw whalebone and cellular structure.


Lila Sferlazza, associate at Pickard Chilton, led the team with Magnusson Klemencic Associates to create a feature stair for their assembly. ©Dan Cappellazzo


Or take the rainscreen designed by Selldorf Architects and façade consultant Socotec, that, using parabolic strengthening and other measures, saw an approximately 60 percent reduction in typical panel weight. The prototype also experimented with the use of industrial waste such as slag as a recycled material for both terra cotta and glazing.

ZGF Architects’ New York office, in collaboration with LERA Consulting Structural Engineers, worked on a modular system, suitable for rainscreen or sunshade use, or even as a decorative display, of glazed and ribbed uniform terra cotta units mounted on a rod system that is configurable at a full 360 degrees.

Los Angeles-based CO Architects held an internal design competition for their prototype, and ultimately looked towards origami’s multifaceted folds as inspiration. The result is a system of glazed and plain surfaces suspended over vertically oriented tension rods.

HGA worked with Denver-based facade engineering firm Studio NYL to design a rainscreen system of terra cotta planks, that, in their finish, resemble something of a high-design bush-hammered façade.


Stan Su returned to ACAW for a third time to lead the RIOS team’s modular wall concept. ©Dan Cappellazzo


Henning Larsen, Thornton Tomasetti, and Innovation Glass teamed up to explore the use of moss on a unitized terra cotta curtain wall system. ©Dan Cappellazzo


The prompt for this year’s workshop was biophilic design, and several participating firms incorporated plantings within their prototypes. L.A.-based RIOS, with the support of engineer ARUP, unveiled a hybrid block-and-rainscreen system that can be fitted with a series of planter trays.

The New York office of Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen, in a pairing with engineer Thornton Tomasetti and façade fabricator Innovation Glass, explored a crackle-glazed sunscreen with alluvial grooves capable of supporting moss growth.

And Eric Parry Architects, with collaborating façade engineer FMDC, developed a fish scale-like rain screen of extruded terra cotta finials, as well as high-gloss glazed soffit panels, for an ongoing project in London’s Salisbury Square.

Let’s see what the future has in store for this industrious corner of New York.


Orel Samson of Allied Properties REIT and Seldorf Architects’ Anne Lewison discuss ACAW 2023 teams assemblies on display. ©Dan Cappellazzo

Eric Parry – “Architectural Practice is a Collaborative Exercise”

How a garage, a carpet and living on a bus helped shape Eric Parry

AUTHOR: Pamela Buxton
DATE: July 19, 2023
SOURCE: The RIBA Journal

The RIBA Journal interviews architect Eric Parry on his long-standing career, his priorities, obstacles, and his most treasured possession. Below is an excerpt from the interview:

“Do you think the profession was too slow to grasp the need to design more sustainably? What more needs to be done?”

“Definitely. The industry tends to be reactive – from government to planning policy and only then does everyone step up to the mark. The RIBA has become more proactive. We should be railing against the procurement policy of government and demanding better practice with regard to sustainability. There’s a lack of commitment, and a remarkable short sightedness. The most important thing about sustainability is durability, so we’re nuts to be designing for a 60-year building life.”

Read the full interview here.

Eric Parry is the Opening Keynote Speaker at ACAW 2023, presented annually by Boston Valley Terra Cotta in Buffalo, NY.

Eric Parry Architects together with FMDC Ltd. are one of this year’s Professional Teams presenting their explorations at the ACAW 2023 Symposium on Thursday, August 17th.

Boston Valley Terra Cotta Announces 2023 Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop

The eighth annual Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW) will commence on August 14, 2023, with an opening keynote speech by Eric Parry, RA – Principal & Founder of Eric Parry Architects with studios in London and Singapore.

ACAW is an industry-academic collaborative workshop hosted by Boston Valley Terra Cotta, with Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture and the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. Its aim is to broaden industry professionals’ knowledge of the performance of terra cotta, encouraging a deeper understanding of manufacturing architectural ceramics that will inform next-generation building designs. Guided by terra cotta manufacturers and ceramicists, teams of architects, façade engineers, educators, and students work together over the course of the workshop to share knowledge and gain experience developing terra cotta wall assemblies.

ACAW 2023 has brought together preeminent members from architecture and engineering firms around the world. The eight professional teams presenting at this year’s Symposium include:

  • Eric Parry Architects + FMDC Ltd.
  • ZGF + LERA
  • Pickard Chilton + Magnusson Klemencic Associates
  • Rios + ARUP
  • HGA + Studio NYL
  • Henning Larsen + Thornton Tomasetti
  • CO Architects
  • Selldorf Architects + Socotec
  • Six student teams are also involved this year.

Visual prototypes – constructed by the teams on-site at Boston Valley – will be presented in-person at the Buffalo Marriott at LECOM HARBORCENTER and via a live virtual feed during the ACAW 2023 Symposium on Thursday, August 17, 2023.

The event will conclude with closing keynote speaker, Orel Samson, Senior Manager, Construction at Allied Properties REIT. Samson will speak about his experience with The Well, an ambitious seven-building “megaproject” near Toronto’s urban core. Boston Valley’s TerraClad® was used on the façade of The Well’s Building E.

The workshop incorporates knowledge about the fabrication and manufacture of architectural terra cotta early in the architect’s design process. This encourages the efficient production of high-performance terra cotta facade solutions. “We are thrilled to once again host the 2023 Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop, bringing together the brightest minds in architecture and design to explore the infinite possibilities of ceramic assemblies,” said John Krouse, CEO at Boston Valley Terra Cotta. “This event serves as a platform to exchange knowledge, foster creativity, and study what is possible in architectural terra cotta.”

Additional in-person speakers include John Krouse – CEO of Boston Valley Terra Cotta and Christine Jetten of Studio Christine Jetten in the Netherlands.

For more information, go to this year’s event page on this site.