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
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.
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 archceramicworkshop.com