Message on a tile

The past few issues of this materials column focused mainly on the “sensorial properties of material” such as gloss, texture, perceived temperature, weight, and translucence.

Statistical information on search behavior of the focus group on Materia’s materials search engine reveals that of all sensorial aspects translucence was the property most frequently accessed.
In addition to sensorial and technical properties, the visitor can also search by material group; this issue reviews one of the most varied materials in architecture: ceramics.
Ceramics: after wood and rock, fired man-made stone is the oldest building material.
There is evidence of the use of ceramics in construction dating from pre-historic India, Middle East, northern Africa, and northern and central America. The first sun-dried bricks were probably made as early as 10,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq. Ceramics became really popular and durable however with advent of the kiln.

The process from clay to brick or tile is subject to clay type, clay composition, the object’s shape, the degree of drying, and the overall firing process. Failure to complete these processes properly may result in cracking. In most factories therefore the entire production process is automated to a high degree. Computers carefully monitor the drying and firing process. The slightest deviations are identified and controlled with the aid of modern measuring and control technologies.

The brick as varied building material has proven its varied utility abundantly over time. Glazed, shaped, bricked, colored, textured; and still the possibilities are not exhausted. Peter Zumthor e.g. introduced his long gray flat brick for Petersen, breaking with traditional dimensions. Any brick of substantial size will curve, and bricklayers don’t like that. The “Zumthor brick” however is magnificently long and flat, as well as curved, lopsided and ballooning, which precisely defines its charm.

Ceramic tiles on facade, floor or wall are printed, burned and glazed with photos, texts and illustrations. Crockery production technologies are now applied to tiles, such as the application of rust-engobe, metal glazing, prints, matte glazing, and structures. A tiled wall is strictly speaking nonsense; originally a tiled wall was the only way to apply an hygienic wall covering in kitchens and bathrooms, and with ceramic and glass tiles not being available in large sizes tiles were used. The advent of coatings and glass sheets has basically removed this requirement, but as a result the creative possibilities of ceramics are being utilized even more. For instance the way Mosa plays with form, shape, light and structure makes even the Italians – famous for their huge ceramic tiles industry – keen enthusiasts. And now small-scale businesses have embraced the option of customized tile printing; the way you can have your own photos and illustrations imprinted in your wallpaper, you can have your tiles imprinted and shaped to your specifications. Your personal message on a tile!