World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Architectural terracotta

Article Id: WHEBN0005666707
Reproduction Date:

Title: Architectural terracotta  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Terracotta, Architecture of Birmingham, Soil-based building materials, Gibbs and Canning Limited, Building
Collection: Building, Building Materials, Soil-Based Building Materials, Terracotta
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Architectural terracotta

The Natural History Museum has an ornate terracotta facade typical of high Victorian architecture. The carvings represent the contents of the Museum
The architectural detail on the facade of the building represents the contents of the Museum
The Bell Edison Telephone Building, Birmingham, England
Prudential Assurance Building, Liverpool, England

Architectural terracotta, in its unglazed form, became fashionable as an architectural ceramic construction material in England in the 1860s, and in the United States in the 1870s. It was generally used as a decorative skin to complement or supplement brick and tiles of similar colour in late Victorian buildings.

Terracotta had been used architecturally before this in Germany from 1824 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Edmund Sharpe designed and oversaw the construction of the first church built almost exclusively of the material, St Stephen and All Martyrs' Church, Lever Bridge in Bolton, erected 1842–45. Henry Cole, secretary to the Science and Arts Department of the UK adopted terracotta for the building which is now the Victoria and Albert Museum (1859–71) and then the Royal Albert Hall (1867–71), both in London. Alfred Waterhouse used it in his designs when in business in Manchester from 1853 and London from 1865. He used a combination of buff and blue-grey terracotta in his Natural History Museum in London.

The colour of terracotta varies with the source of the clay. London clay gives a pale pink or buff colour, whereas the Ruabon (North Wales) clay gives a bright red.

Terracotta had the advantage of being cheap and light. It was adaptable to mass-production techniques for stock shapes, although the plaster moulds had a limited capability for re-use. Additionally it could be freely worked by craftsmen to make custom-sculptured adornments and plaques. It was accepted as a material by the Arts and Crafts movement because despite seeming a mass-produced material it was handmade and designed by craftsmen. It had a manufacture time of about eight weeks and each piece had to be made over-size to allow for shrinkage as the clay body dried. To avoid cracking the pieces had to be quite thin. They were filled with concrete as they were applied to buildings.

The disadvantage of terracotta, apart from its rather uniform colour in a given district, was that it was not easy to keep clean. Town smoke made it blacken. A more modern phenomenon is the growth of naturally seeded plants and small trees which grow in the nooks and crannies of the intricate designs high above the streets now that the Victorian pollution has gone.

Unglazed terracotta went out of fashion from around the 1890s, giving way to glazed architectural terra-cotta, or faience as it is known in Britain, which does not attract grime and is easy to clean, giving way to a more colourful architecture.



Brick: A World History, James W P Campbell & Will Pryce, 2003, ISBN 0-500-34195-8

External links

  • Victorian and Edwardian Terracotta BuildingsArticle on terracotta in
  • - Dr Michael StrattonUnderstanding and Conserving Terracotta
  • Bolton Museums
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.