There’s a bit of a revival going on in building land at the moment — people are getting excited about covering buildings in ceramics.
For a city that’s grown up with ceramic tiles, on the Underground and to bring daylight down into hidden backs of offices and hospitals, we seem to have fallen out of love with the ceramic building. But, a revival in underway as modern methods reduce costs and increase the design flexibility, and as building owners realise that ceramic cladding requires a lot less maintenance so is cheaper in the long term.
An exhibition that’s opened at the Building Centre just off Tottenham Court Road (that place with the huge scale model of London) shows off some recent buildings that have gone up, with a focus on getting up close to the faience cladding.
From a 27-storey tower in Wandsworth that’s clad in three different types of terracotta tiles, inspired by a tea service, to the latest in robotic design.
You might have seen one of the more dramatic decorative buildings of recent years — on Piccadilly — with the deep red curved windows that look almost as if the building was red, and then painted white afterwards, when in fact it’s the other way round. The ceramic transfer used on the curved window sills was developed all the way back in the 18th century, but had never been used on a building before.
While much of the ceramic work is hand made, or finished, such as the blue green fins for a new Cambridge building, possibly one of the more interesting developments is in robotics and how they can create unexpected shapes.
Although not totally new, the spaghetti type types are an interesting idea for wall cladding, adding texture to the structure, then glazed the conventional way, and in doing so a thick tile of this sort with lots of holes and a maze like interior would be a surprisingly good absorbent of street noise compared to a flat surface that just reflects the noise back again.
Do look out for another large scale ceramic building due to finish soon – the former Odeon site in Leicester Square which is being clad in a striking blue tile design. The exhibition, Hand Held to Super Scale: Building with Ceramics is open at the Building Centre until 31st January 2020.
It’s open Mon-Sat, and entry is free.