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Terracotta Panels Re-Beautifying the Asian Architectural Landscape

Terracotta Panels Re-Beautifying the Asian Architectural Landscape


The results are in, and a new architectural trend seems to be forming. We’re talking about terracotta, and how the material is now seen on facades from all over the world. It is widely used in the construction of establishments that serve all kinds of purposes, such as museums, monuments, police stations, banks, hospitals, schools, or residential complexes.

Due to their versatility, durability, and cost-effectiveness, terracotta panels are an increasingly popular choice of outer wall cladding in modern architectural designs. They have been adopted at a global level already, but one particular continent seems to be integrating them especially well. Here are the ways in which the material is currently beautifying Asian cityscapes.

 Terracotta Panels Re-Beautifying the Asian Architectural Landscape

Terracotta and Contemporary Architecture

When translated from Latin, the term ‘terracotta’ literally means ‘baked earth’. It is a type of lightweight porous clay that man has used for shelter and art since the dawn of time. In the past, it could be seen in its glazed variety on roofs, but currently there is a rising interest in using matte terracotta bricks in the creation of exterior walls.

The most iconic building that comes to mind is The New York Times’ headquarters, designed by the renowned Renzo Piano. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other successful instances of terracotta usage at a global level. According to Architectural Digest, some of the most stunning ones can be found in the United States, Australia or the United Kingdom.

But while the Western English-speaking hemisphere might be pulling terracotta off beautifully these days, no one does it better than Asia. The Eastern continent has a long-standing history when it comes to using terracotta when erecting edifices. In the modern era, there are plenty of examples that prove how well the material has transitioned in time.

 Terracotta Panels Re-Beautifying the Asian Architectural Landscape

The Reshaping of Asian Facades

When thinking of innovative terracotta usage, the first Asian country that stands out is certainly China. Many of the country’s institutions have been revamped using the material, including universities, hospitals, the World Bank or the National Resources Archive. What is more, newly built residential complexes also sport this type of ceramic cladding.

A prime example is represented by the Bund House, located in Shanghai’s historic South Bundregion. To preserve the traditional architectural styles of the area, developers made use of classic reddish terracotta bricks to assemble the on-site office building. It now keeps the tone, while adding a touch of unapologetic modernity at the same time.

Clay facing bricks have been used in the 2017 renovation project of the Flying Tigers Memorial situated east of the Huaihua Zhijiang Airport. The construction commemorates the help China has received from a special American air force unit in their fight against Japan. The antiquated aspect of the terracotta adds even more to the historical significance of the monument.

Hong Kong is also following suit and furthering the usage of terracotta even more. In fact, the first 3D-printed pavilion using it was erected by a team of University of Hong Kong students in order to promote the use of robotic technology and eco-friendly materials in the architectural landscape of the territory.  

In Asia, terracotta bricks serve two purposes. In some cases, they are used to preserve the historical spirit of a certain region’s cityscape or add a touch of tradition. But they do much more than uphold tradition. If the material’s popularity in the Western world signals anything, it’s the fact that ceramic tiles and panels are the way of the future.

They are known for being environmentally friendly, which fits into a much larger trend in modern architecture, namely the propensity for going green. Terracotta is not only natural, but it also possesses incredible insulant properties that seal warmth or coolness inside buildings for longer. This reduces overall energy consumption, which is more than desirable nowadays.

Thus, terracotta is much more than a tradition upholder. It is an adaptable construction material that serves multiple purposes, while at the same time remaining on the affordable side. This is a rather enticing prospect for developers, who are now utilizing it in the most innovative ways possible.

This has triggered a response among manufacturers, who have started to make progress on production methods. Terracotta tiles can now be engraved or embellished via inkjet for a unique aesthetic that doesn’t break the bank. With that being said, it is now clear that the terracotta revolution is led by Asia.

Final Thoughts

Terracotta bricks, tiles, and panels have become a prevalent choice of outer wall cladding for buildings from all over the world. Although both the West and the East are making use of it beautifully, Asia is certainly winning the game. The examples mentioned above are but a few of the many unique designs that have spread across the continent.

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