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word of the week: TERRA-COTTA

2010 May 2
by Caroline Nye Stevens

Fisher Building, CNS 2010

TERRA-COTTA: a clay-based material used to clad buildings that literally means “baked earth”. Though not as prevalent in modern building design, it used to be  a popular material because it could be molded into any design imaginable. Because it’s produced through a process of baking it is also fireproof (an especially popular asset in Chicago considering our history).

On Leong Building

Notice how terra-cotta can be either un-glazed (as on the Fisher Building to the far left) or glazed  (as on the On Leong Merchants Association Building). And terra-cotta isn’t only used as building ornament as seen in the  terra-cotta army of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.