PAU, France — We cover many buildings that utilize screens, both of brick and of ceramic tile. There are a few reasons for architects to go with screens, such as privacy or energy efficiency, and screens are clever lateral-thinking ways to meet both of those goals.
Above image: University of Pau and Pays de l’Adour. Photographs by Didier Boy de la Tour
Our one gripe, though, is that these often don’t look appealing. Screens sometimes look odd and in extreme cases we can see the steel structure lurking underneath, which is unattractive. We need architects to commit to ways a screen can enhance the appearance of a building— what can this design choice accomplish that no other design choice can?
Architects Bertrand Perreaux and Ludovic Le Bras of Architecture studio Patrick Mauger found a way to do that with the University of Pau and Pays de l’Adour in France, a research building. By using an assortment of differently colored glazed and unglazed terracotta tiles, the architects achieved a digital effect. It looks like the building is in the process of rendering, as though the programming of reality wasn’t quite quick enough to pop-in the building before you approached it.
That carries with it an auspicious message, especially for young researchers and scientists at the beginning of their careers. A blocky, institutionalized facility gives one little room for personal growth. It’s done. It almost doesn’t need you. Whereas a building with gaps, a building that appears to have reality struggling to keep up with it, suggests potentiality. Anything is possible, a nice bit of nonverbal encouragement for everyone who crosses the school’s threshold.
That the design is married with practicality is a bonus for me. The architects state that the tiles can be adjusted, meaning that they can act as a canopy allowing for maximum control of sunlight and heat. This aids in the energy efficiency of the building overall. The screen can be either a digital jacket or a digital vent.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe this use of contemporary ceramics in architecture? Let us know in the comments.