Architectural Workshop Redefines the Future of Terra Cotta Façades

The annual event advocates design-assist collaboration to advance new technologies and encourage the use of architectural terra cotta in performative facades.

BUFFALO, NY — The sixth consecutive Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW) will take place on August 19, 2021, commencing with an opening keynote speech by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, principals of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects | Partners. ACAW is an industry- academic collaborative workshop hosted by Boston Valley Terra Cotta, with Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture and the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. Its aim is to broaden industry professionals’ knowledge of the performance of terra cotta, encouraging a deeper understanding of manufacturing architectural ceramics that will inform next-generation designs. Guided by terra cotta manufacturers and ceramicists, eight teams of architects, façade engineers, and educators work together over the course of the workshop to share knowledge and gain experience developing terra cotta wall assemblies. Visual mockups – constructed by the teams on-site at Boston Valley – will be virtually presented during the conference. The event is concluded by closing keynote speaker Mic Patterson, PHD and LEED AP+ of Façade Tectonics Institute.

The ACAW 2021 Workshop has brought together preeminent members from architecture and engineering firms around the world. Walter P. Moore and Associates, Inc. is participating in two separate teams – Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects | Partners, and a team from Studio Gang, whose members have returned for a second year to continue their explorations. Professionals from COOKFOX Architects and Buro Happold are working as one team. TriPyramid is also on two teams – supporting HOK, Permasteelisa North America, and Josef Gartner; in addition to Architecture Research Office (ARO) and Heintges. Goody Clancy and Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) comprise the sixth professional team. Academic teams include students from Carnegie Mellon University, and a collaborative study between faculty from the College of Ceramics at Alfred University and the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

6th Annual Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop

The goal of ACAW is to produce mock-ups that are more informative than the traditional model, utilizing real-time, directive research. The hands-on workshop provides each team with feedback on feasibility to help further refine their design explorations of ceramic facades or screens. In this model, everybody is learning. Experts from industry and academia alike gain a deeper knowledge of the manufacturing process and how it can be utilized to create building skins that take advantage of terra cotta’s natural properties.

“Teams leave this workshop with a better understanding of the material, having learned more about the possibilities of terra cotta and how its fabrication can enhance building performance,” says John Krouse, CEO at Boston Valley Terra Cotta. “This year the level of creativity has risen to produce project- focused studies that offer practical solutions that can potentially go to market. There is a strong interest in sustainability as teams consider the embodied energy of manufacturing terra cotta for high-performance façades – advancing the material to meet both sustainability requirements and aesthetic needs.”

This year, the pandemic necessitated a hybrid approach to the workshop. The prototypes were fabricated in the factory from virtually developed design concepts, while individual teams are scheduled to arrive at Boston Valley to finalize and build their assemblies. During the conference, the teams’ research will be presented online. Post-presentation panels will further the discussion on the topics of façade engineering and fabrication.

The ACAW 2021 conference will be held on Thursday, August 19, and is open to the public. To register for the event or for more details and sponsorship information, visit the event’s website:

About Boston Valley Terra Cotta

Boston Valley Terra Cotta was established by the Krouse family in 1981, following the purchase of Boston Valley Pottery, a company that had been in operation since 1889. Originally a maker of bricks and later of clay pots, Boston Valley Pottery was converted to an architectural terra cotta manufacturing facility by the Krouses. Utilizing both superior terra cotta engineering knowledge and sculpting talent, Boston Valley Terra Cotta has become one of the leading manufacturers of architectural terra cotta in the country, with a proven commitment to quality and a history of unparalleled customer service. For more information, visit

About Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien founded their New York City based firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners in 1986. Their practice is committed to reflecting the values of non-profit, cultural, and academic institutions toward an architecture of enduring vision. At the heart of their designs is a sense of place defined by light, texture, detail and above all, experience.

Some of their notable projects include the Asia Society Hong Kong, Lefrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park, Brooklyn and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Their current work includes the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, the renovation of David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, New York City and the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, Chicago.

Over the past three decades, their dedication to this work has been recognized by numerous national and international citations including the National Medal of the Arts from President Obama, the 2013 Firm of the Year Award from the American Institute of Architects, and the 2019 Praemium Imperiale presented by the Japan Art Association.

In parallel with their practice, Tod and Billie maintain active academic careers and lecture worldwide. As educators and practitioners, they are deeply committed to creating a better world through architecture.

About Mic Patterson

Mic Patterson has concentrated his professional and academic career on advanced façade technology and sustainable building practices. Patterson has a long career in façade design and delivery with companies including Enclos and Schüco, where he was involved in the startup of both the former’s Advanced Technology Studio, and the latter’s 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.

About Facade Tectonics Institute

The Facade Tectonics Institute (FTI) is the premier member organization for building industry and professionals as well as academic, government, and nonprofit organizations and institutions focused on healthy and livable communities. The Institute’s primary objective is to fuel discussion and collaborative research that bridges fragmented market segments of the building industry, pairing government, academia, ownership, and industry professionals. Integral to this mission is the dissemination of historical, theoretical, and practical information derived from this research to the building marketplace, thereby acting as a conduit and facilitator for both learning and further collaborative research pursuits.

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