Terracotta 1912 to 2018

Center Three Case Study





Center Three is a 100-year-old, one million square-foot building in Long Island City, New York that was constructed over the course of one year. It was built with concrete frame construction and clad with hand-set, glazed terracotta blocks and large wood-frame windows. The building was erected for the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company and was known as both the Sunshine Biscuit Factory and The Thousand Window Bakery. It remained a bakery until 1965 when the plant relocated to New Jersey. Between the mid 60’s and mid 90’s the building was used for storage, back office needs, and an emerging local Community College. In the 1990’s the building was purchased by the state of New York and the primary tenant became LaGuardia Community College.

Years of neglect, patching, inadequate and sometimes damaging repairs contributed to exterior wall failures including chunks of terracotta falling from the building. A sidewalk shed to protect pedestrians from falling objects surrounded the building for over a decade while potential solutions were considered. Tear the building down? Replace the facade? If so, with what material? Replacing the entire building was not an option since there was no swing space, nor was there a budget for a new million square foot building.

The decision to select unitized terracotta curtainwall emerged as a response to the unique conditions of the building. The goal was to design a new envelope that respected the long history of terracotta use on the facade, but to employ terracotta using contemporary technology represented by a unitized curtainwall system. The appearance, logistical and detail challenges that arose were significant. Today, standardized panel sizes are mounted to the face of the concrete structure. Installation has been done by crane and monorail with six phases of construction over a 2.5-year period. Over fifty unique glazed terracotta extrusions are integrated with aluminum sunshades and ceramic-fritted insulated glazing to create a high performance sustainable facade that should last another 100 years.


The replacement of the exterior cladding of a one-million square-foot building in Long Island City Queens touches on three stories at once: the underlying importance of reinventing 100+ year-old structures

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The Sunshine Biscuit Factory was built rapidly, over the course of one year, with completion in December of 1913. Located at the nexus of rail and water transit in Long

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Once it was decided that the building would remain and be re-clad, discussions began regarding what this new façade should be. Major issues included:

Material – Should glass, metal and

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The design team developed a fully engineered 6” deep aluminum curtainwall system that could support an open-jointed rain-screen installation of terracotta panels. Based on the overall façade composition and interior

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The final product, as evidenced in the attached photographs of the current on-going installation, is a new outcome for the use of contemporary terracotta (Fig. 12-13). The intensity of shape

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Conclusion and Future Work

Transforming a building intended for manufacturing into a major center for teaching and learning is not necessarily a natural fit. Deciding to replace a 100+ year old façade of a

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Paper written with support from Heidi Sadler, AIA, LEED AP, and Cwith Heidi Sadler, AIA, LEED AP, and Catherine Vera, RA.atherine Vera, RA.

Architect: Mitchell | Giurgola Architects, LLP - Paul Broches, Partner; Carol Loewenson, Partner; Stephen Dietz, Partner;
Heidi Sadler, Associate; Catherine Vera; Andrew Thomas; Cristina Greavu; and Andrea Kirk

Curtainwall Consultant: Heintges & Associates - Areta Pawlynsky, AIA, Partner

MEP Engineer: Joseph R. Loring & Associates

Structural Engineer: Ysrael A. Seinuk, P.C.

Clients: Dormitory Authority of the State of New York; The City University of New York; La Guardia Community College

Construction Manager: TDX Construction Corp.

Curtainwall Manufacturer + Installer: Enclos

Terracotta Manufacturer: Shildan, Inc.

Rights and Permissions

Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Comstock, WM Phillips. “The Loose-Wiles Building: A Reinforced Concrete Building in New York City.” Architecture and Building: A Magazine Devoted to Contemporary Architectural Construction, Vol. XLVI, No. 1, The William T. Comstock Company, 1914, pp. 142–147.

“Industrial Plants Costing Millions of Dollars Within Few Blocks of Queensboro Bridge Plaza.” The New York Times, 28 June 1914.

Morrone, Francis. “The Gems of Dumbo.” The New York Sun, The New York Sun, 18 Oct. 2007, www.nysun.com/arts/gems-of/dumbo/64838.

Rinaldi, T.E. “Long Island City.” New York Neon, New York Neon, 27 Sept. 2012, nyneon.blogspot.com/2012/09/long-island-city.html.

Slesin, Suzanne. “Queens Site to Be Converted Into International Design Center.” The New York Times, 10 Mar. 1983.