On the occasion of this year’s Milan Design Week, New York-based studio ShoP Architects has created a “sculptural terra cotta enclosure” designed for Interni Magazine’s Material Immaterial exhibition. Called Wave/Cave, the installation is composed of 1670 blocks of unglazed terracotta made by NBK Keramik and arranged in an area of 55 square meters.

The blocks are extruded using an exclusive production process, and cut by numerically controlled machinery in as many as 797 different shapes. The blocks are placed on three levels to form a height of 3,6 meters, and are vertically connected by 12mm steel bars.

 Wave/Cave Installation by ShoP Architects

The structure has been designed in collaboration with Arup and installed by Metalsigma Tunesi, for an overall weight of 60 tons. While the exterior of Wave/Cave has a compact, regular surface, the interior – protected by Cricursa glass – is of surprising ornamental impact.

The beauty and intricate pattern are enhanced by the lighting, developed by L&L Luce&Light and designed by PHT Lighting Design. Inserted in the blocks and pointing upward, the fixtures produce extraordinary effects of light and shadow.

 Wave/Cave Installation by ShoP Architects

“Working with Interni has been an incredible honor and a great experience for our studio to explore the possibilities of design on a smaller, more intimate scale,” explains SHoP principal, William Sharples. “Focusing on this idea of solidity and slow-time is a reaction to what has happened to a lot of architecture over the past few years—WAVE/CAVE asks us to slow down and get back in touch with the weight and pace of architecture from other eras.”


“We’ve always been interested in working with traditional materials,” adds Christopher Sharples, principal at SHoP. “Today’s technologies allow us to draw out their material authenticity in new ways. The collaboration between SHoP, NBK keramik, and Metalsigma Tunesi on WAVE/CAVE was an effort to demonstrate the poetic possibilities of terracotta while suggesting new directions for its use in contemporary construction.”

Wave/Cave will be on display at Università degli Studi di Milano until April 15.

 Wave/Cave Installation by ShoP Architects

all images by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti