In the ever-changing world of architecture, the exploration of new materials and techniques is essential to achieving innovative façade designs. A frontrunner of this movement is the annual Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW), where architects, designers, and students collaborate to push the boundaries of architectural terra cotta.
As co-coordinators of the professional teams at ACAW 2023, Mic Patterson and Sanjeev Tankha are two of this year’s event organizers.
The Role of Organizers at ACAW 2023
Both organizers for the workshop, Patterson and Tankha have undertaken the responsibility of organizing this year’s professional teams.
According to Patterson, “Our primary responsibility was to host and moderate a series of weekly meetings with the eight invited teams through the first three months of the year. The meetings tracked through the conceptual design, design development, and culminated in March 2023 with construction documents for a custom prototype from each team.”
In addition, they also led the USC SoA academic team’s participation in this year’s event and taught a graduate level class that explored terra cotta as a cladding material.
“The class shadowed the ACAW design process with students. Andrew Pries, Andy Brayman, and Omar Khan were fantastic in their support and gave presentations to the class that mirrored the professional lectures,” Tankha noted.
Embracing Boston Valley Terra Cotta and ACAW
Tankha’s decade-long relationship with Boston Valley Terra Cotta played a significant role in drawing him towards ACAW. Having previously worked with terra cotta, and as a past ACAW façade engineering partner to a professional team, this year he got to experience the workshop as a coordinator and academic leader. Reflecting on his involvement, he stated, “It’s great to see the interest from all different perspectives and focal points.”
Patterson’s interest in the ACAWorkshop was sparked by its rare and unique collaborative exercise in the building industry.
Architectural Terra Cotta as a Medium
Architectural terra cotta has captivated both men due to its inherent qualities and potential to create low-maintenance, long-lasting façades with a minimal life cycle impact on projects. Its historical significance, combined with modern reinterpretations, makes it an intriguing medium to work with.
“Projects like the Orange County Museum of Art are a modernist expression of this material with ancient roots,” said Patterson.
Tankha went on to state that, “ACAW is facilitating this renewed interest in architectural terra cotta, and it is fascinating to see the ideas developed by the architects, designers and students.”
Expectations for ACAW 2023 Symposium
This year, discussion steered towards environmentally conscious architecture, with an emphasis on integrating nature into the design principles of façades. The exploration of AI-generated texture mapping as a design concept also promises to elevate the creativity and ingenuity on display during the Symposium presentations.
“ACAW is about exploration of ideas, pushing limits and trying new things — this year’s Symposium is going to be fascinating, and I am looking forward to it,” said Tankha.
Patterson goes on to say, “Massive innovation is required throughout the building process to achieve critical resilience and sustainability goals in buildings and urban habitat. I recognize ACAW as a potential model for innovation and collaboration in the building industry, and a strategy for research and development, all things our industry is in desperate need of but is not very good at.”
Boston Valley Terra Cotta assists with guiding the teams’ process in cooperation with ACAW 2023 organizers Omar Kahn, Professor and Head of CMU’s School of Architecture, and Andrew Pries, Pre-Construction Manager at Boston Valley.
As ACAW continues to fuel the renewed interest in architectural terra cotta, professionals and students alike explore its endless possibilities, molding it in ways that challenge design norms.
Mic Patterson, PHD, LEED AP+
Ambassador of Innovation and Collaboration, Façade Tectonics Institute
Mic Patterson has concentrated his professional and academic career on advanced façade technology and sustainable building practices. He has a long career in façade design and delivery with companies including Enclos, where he was involved in the startup of the Advanced Technology Studio, and Schüco, where he was involved in the startup of the Virtual Construction Lab. He also founded the Façade Tectonics Institute, where he currently sits on the board of directors. Patterson holds a PhD in Architecture from the University of Southern California. He has taught, written, and lectured internationally on diverse aspects of advanced façade technology. He is the author of Structural Glass Facades and Enclosures.
Sanjeev Tankha, AIA
Principal, STARQ Design Inc.
Sanjeev Tankha brings 28 years of experience in design integration of innovative and advanced building technology, with a focus in façades and specialty structures. He has led the design and construction of façades and specialty systems for several large aviation, sports, and commercial projects in the US and around the world. Tankha is recognized as a subject matter expert and has lectured in national and international conferences about building technology and facades, including as a guest lecturer at Sci Arch and USC. Tankha has a Master’s degree in Building Science from the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture, and a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi, India. He is also a licensed architect in the state of California.