For centuries, ceramic has been favored for both functional and decorative cladding. As the story goes, the use of ceramic tiling first appeared around 2,700 BC, when it was used to add some pizazz to the graves of Egyptian pharaohs.
In the early 13th century, countries in the Middle East dreamt up intricate wall tiling for exterior walls. Progressively, the influence of Islamic architecture gradually spread to Spain and Italy, where ceramics were used extensively as external cladding on public buildings — think of the San Pedro Church, Teruel or the Chapel of Saint Sebastian in San Petronio at Bologna.
Today ceramic clothes the exterior of countless architectural typologies, creating some of the most captivating façades. As a result of the ample range of ceramic compositions, there are endless combinations in terms of shape, color and texture. With a wide array of treatments — simulated stone and metallic effects, polished, honed and textured surfaces, and so on — this collection is made up of some of the most distinctive tiled façades, a taste of ceramic cladding from around the world.
Soumaya Museum by FR-EE/Fernando Romero Enterprise, Mexico City, Mexico
As the home to a private art collection of nearly 70,000 works, the museum reflects the diverse range of pieces that line the floors and walls of the cultural institution. Supported by 28 curved steel columns, the rotated rhomboid structure is clad in a skin of 16,000 hexagonal mirrored-steel ceramic tiles — referencing traditional colonial ceramic-tiled building façades.
Zamet Centre by Studio 3LHD, Rijeka, Croatia
With a slightly unusual shape, one-third of this sports hall’s volume is cut into the ground, while the remaining public shapes rise up into the surrounding landscape. The ‘ribbons,’ which extend in the north-south direction, have a ceramic cladding that was inspired by a specific type of rock local to Rijeka.
Museum De Fundatie by Bierman Henket architecten, Zwolle, Netherlands
Previously existing as an early 20th-century courthouse, this museum extension involved adding a spectacular roof volume to the mezzanines that were constructed as courtrooms. Eight structural steel columns support the two new exhibition floors, which are called Art Cloud due to the fact that the annex is clad in 55,000 3D ceramic tiles.
Music Hall and House in Algueña by COR & Asociados, Algueña, Spain
Proposed as a part of a rehabilitation program in two phases, the scheme consists of a 230-seat auditorium and a park with an open-air auditorium (that Aline Barnsdall would’ve loved). The shiny new exterior of the structure is clad with “low-cost’ pearly, iridescent ceramic surfacing.
Ceramic Museum and Mosaic Park, 2013 World Landscape Art Exposition in Jinzhou by Casanova Hernandez Architects, Jinzhou, China
Created as a symbol of cultural hybridization, Mosaic Park was designed with a kaleidoscopic treatment of broken ceramic pieces of different colors. The geometric composition of the park was inspired by the crackled glaze of the Chinese porcelain developed in the 10th century during the Song Dynasty in the Ru Ware and Ge Ware ceramic pieces.
Brandhorst Museum by Sauerbruch Hutton Architeckten, München, Germany
Adjacent to a number of other modern and contemporary art museums in Munich’s kunstarea, the Brandhorst Museum consists of three interconnecting volumes distinguished by claddings of different colors. There is a multicolored façade composed of one layer of 36,000 ceramic rods in an assortment of 23 custom colors glazed in a family of eight colors, and a second layer of horizontally folded metal skin coated in two colors.
Jewish Community Center Mainz by Manuel Herz Architects, Mainz, Germany
In order to integrate the Jewish community center with the surrounding residential neighborhood, the vernacular ‘perimeter block pattern’ (Blockrandbauung) was used in the ceramic cladding of the façade. In a wave of a rippled 3D surface, the glazed ceramic façade was created through a process similar to inscription or carving a pattern.
Residential Buildings in Mieres by Amann, Cánovas y Maruri, Mieres del Camino, Spain
Designed in a context where the volume of a building was previously strictly defined by urban regulation, the exterior was conceived as a “technical wall.” Cross ventilation and flexible spaces transpire behind a continuous polycarbonate skin located on the front of the terrace, and a second front of the gallery is lined with ceramic tiles of various colors.