Ceramics

What is hidden behind this ceramic tiles cladding with brick shape? A thermal insulation material fixed over a real brick wall. The cladding, far from trying to cheat us, exhibits its not even self-bearing condition by resorting to a peculiar “rigging”. ETICS façade systems allow many other finishing materials besides renderings, it’s only a matter of weight, flexibility and adherence.

In this case study we want to emphasize the constructive solution applied either in the facades as in the roof: an ETICS system coated with ceramic tiles. External thermal insulation construction systems have come to stay. Like the ventilated façade, these systems allow the complete continuity of the thermal insulation in front of the structure. The great difference is that, if the majority of ventilated façades clearly show the breakup due to the open joints, in the case of ETICS with a ceramic coating, the grouting permits making the joints practically imperceptible.

We include here RBA headquarters building not with the aim of talking about the project as a whole, an analysis that would allow us to highlight very positive aspects, but just focusing our interest on the façade. That leads us to talk about its lack of sincerity. The two longitudinal facades of the lower volume are articulated from a grid that reproduces the rhythm of the concrete structure. It is not the true "structure" that we see. The façade enclosure covers pillars and slab edges from the outside hiding them in sight.

Mecanotubo is one of the façade industries that most invested the latest 90s’ in Catalonia to give a unitary response to the rain screen façade.They wagered to adapt the stick curtain wall technology to this two layers facade. As it happens in Carburos Metalicos façade, the resulting inner sheet provides water tightness enough to consider the drainage cavity, and consequently the outer layer, unnecessary.

Profiled metal trays, so common in industrial buildings, find a new use in this residential complex in Guadalajara, Spain. Even with great appreciation of the cleverness and simplicity of the solution, we cannot fail to mention problems such as the thermal bridges that occur through the metallic ribs, the lack of steam permeability, or the compositional limitations derived from the tray width.The thermal bridges are easily resolvable with additional insulation.

This mixed-use complex apparently resort to the use of ceramics to integrate the building into a historic industrial district that still conserves 19th-century architecture - 22 @, Barcelona. However, using a specific material is not enough to consider the building integrated into a context. The material is not simply matter; it is a format, a constructive technique and a system.

With this project we want to exemplify the scarce use of materials with which HArquitectes resolve their architecture, and therefore their facades. In this occasion, only two materials: thermal insulation and perforated brick (gero). If in the interior wall, the structural support, the brick is arranged in a suitable way so as to resist the loads transmitted by the slab; in the outer wall, the same brick is arranged rotated showing its perforated surface, therefore, allowing the chamber between the two walls to be ventilated.

Facades formed by double walls present the problem of possible condensation of the water on the cold side of the insulation. This problem is hardly solvable when it is committed to preserve the water vapor diffusivity of the whole enclosure. The outer wall will hardly dissipate water vapor before it condenses. Harquitectes solve this problem in this house in Sant Cugat by means of punctual microventilations, allowing them to escape from the traditional image of cavity wall. Rainwater tightness is entrusted to the characteristics of the outer ceramic layer. 

Renzo Piano gives us several examples of interesting ceramic façades, despite the problems that some of them may have suffered over time.The use of dry ceramics as a facade cladding, and the resort to prefabrication, are aspects that are repeated throughout the career of Piano experiencing different strategies in each project. In the case of the houses of the Rue Meaux, he bets for hang the ceramic from GRC support panels that close the building.

St Giles is one of the latest projects designed by Renzo Piano’s studio with a dry fixed ceramic façade. In this case, they resort to unitized panels for its construction. Despite using the latest façade technologies, St Giles does not show the wit present in IRCAM or at the Rue Meaux dwellings complex.