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.