A closer look reveals the rich yellow glaze and ridged texture of Pelli Clarke's ceramic seating

ACAW 2022 in the Friends of Terra Cotta Newsletter

The Friends of Terra Cotta, Inc. is a national, non-profit organization founded to promote education and research in the preservation of architectural terra cotta and related ceramic materials. The organization seeks to educate the general public and construction industry professionals about architectural terra cotta’s value and history as a building material.

In their fall newsletter, FOTC published an article on the 2022 ACAWorkshop, discussing the importance of solar performance in façade design.


Excerpt from the Friends of Terra Cotta – Fall Newsletter

“Terra cotta’s return as a material of choice in contemporary architecture has to do with its capacity to be molded into any form, colorfully glazed, and richly textured. These properties align with architecture’s focus today on expressive form, unique structures, and a more expansive palette. In addition, new techniques for manufacturing terra cotta and adapting them to contemporary construction have made it a competitive alternative to concrete and aluminum. While terra cotta’s formal capacities will continue to be drivers of design, new technological options need to be investigated to make it a material of necessity in the architect’s repertoire.

“ACAW was developed in 2016 by John Krouse and support staff from Boston Valley Terra Cotta. The goal was to explore the challenges of what terra cotta will be able to offer architects in the near future. The 2022 workshop, the 7th to be held, had eight participating groups of architects and collaborators: BKSK, BNIM, FXCollaborative, NADAAA, Pelli Clark & Partners, Steven Holl Architects, WJE, and Woods Bagot.

“This year’s prototypes continued research into façade designs that integrate fenestration, photovoltaic panels, shading and screening devices to develop more performative assemblies. Also, how the rainscreen system can be integrated into historic preservation projects. Finally, there were projects testing the sculptural possibilities of the material as architectural surface, exhibition display, and urban furniture.

“The focus on using terra cotta to reflect light or to be integrated with various photovoltaic panels may stem from a 2019 New York City law. Local Law 97, enacted by the City Council as part of a pioneering legislative package, is aimed at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. The law zeros in on large buildings, limiting their emissions. The city’s one million buildings generate nearly 70% of its carbon emissions – much of the energy for their heating, cooling, and lighting comes from burning fossil fuels.

“Now, with just 16 months until the deadline to meet the law’s first thresholds – and with the threat of fines that could climb to millions of dollars a year for buildings that do not – landlords are on high alert. Emissions thresholds fall significantly for the second deadline, in 2030, which likely means that many more buildings will need to make major changes, including replacing building systems, to avoid paying hefty fines. Architects are, of course, well aware of this law and know that it is important for new construction to address these emissions guidelines. This is certainly one of the reasons that there was an emphasis on solar solutions in this year’s ACAW.”

Of the 8 projects at ACAW 2022, three were picked to share with FOTC members:


FX Collaborative
“Although this hexagonal wall is tricky to describe, it seems to have real potential for bringing sunlight into a building. The back of each hexagon has a cone like shape that has been partially cut, to allow light to enter the hexes and move further into the building.”

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The back view of the hexagon wall system shows how light enters the facade. Photo ©Dan Cappellazzo


The FX Collaborative team with their facade prototype. Photo ©Dan Cappellazzo


Pelli Clark & Partners
“Although this seems like a straightforward task, the development of terra cotta furniture of various types have been tested, most do not seem promising. However, this team developed a handsome and comfortable glazed terra-cotta seating arrangement.”

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Pelli Clarke’s terra cotta seating can be moved into a variety of arrangements. Photo ©Dan Cappellazzo


A closer look reveals the ridged texture of the ceramic seating. Photo ©Dan Cappellazzo


Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE)
“This very simple idea could really be useful in restorations where the cornice must be replaced. Rainscreen sections can be used to replicate certain cornice styles. This results in a lighter weight cornice, an easier installation (once the details are worked out), and a quicker turn-around time.”

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WJE’s terra cotta rainscreen system replicates a historic cornice using thin-walled extrusions and modular attachments. Photo ©Dan Cappellazzo


A profile view of the extruded rainscreen assembly. Photo ©Dan Cappellazzo