Modern Buddhist Temple Inspired by Material Innovation

A recent terracotta material innovation is behind the expressive facade of the new Nan Tien Institute and Buddhist Temple in New South Wales, Australia. Inspired by the Buddhist symbol of the lotus flower, global design studio Woods Bagot worked together with manufacturer Axolotl and specialist builders Hi-Tec to develop a facade of terracotta blades that uses this very traditional material  in a totally new way.

To create the effect of terracotta blades, the team made use of a 0.5mm thick terracotta coating that can be bonded to a variety of building materials. Developed by Axolotl, this coating is simpler, lighter and more cost effective than traditional terracotta. The coating’s proprietary bonding process replicates the look of solid terracotta both in terms of texture and colour. For the facade of the Nan Tien Insitute, aluminium blades were chosen as the substrate for the coating. Each blade is articulated around an axis and locked in place   – something impossible to achieve with standard terracotta. The terracotta-coated blades subtly shift in direction, adding a strong textural component to the building. When viewed from a distance, the blades convey a contemporary lotus leaf.
Terracotta has long being a favored as a material by famed architects such as Renzo Piano because of the it’s natural beauty. Unfortunately, incorporating traditional terracotta into many designs can be challenging though as this material is difficult to use in many situations because of its weight, strength and cost. Traditional terracotta can also be brittle and have large tolerances in size variation, making it a difficult material for builders to work with during installation. However with Axolotl ‘s coating innovation, panels and forms can be constructed offsite using any substrate – including lightweight and sustainable materials. Furthermore, the shrinkage, weight, scale and manufacturing times associated with using traditional terracotta are minimised.
A Sustainable Material:
This coating can not only be applied to sustainable substrates, but furthermore does not require the firing or heavy machinery used in the traditional terracotta casting process. Recycled materials are used as raw materials and 1 square meter of Axolotl Terracotta uses just 1.5% of the raw materials required for the same surface area of solid terracotta.


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