Tiles of the unexpected
Kohn Pedersen Fox architect Richard Taylor sought for a distinctive material to clad a prestigious new City of London office building for AIG. He knew he wanted something special, but didn't know what is was or how to find it. This new headquarters on Fenchurch Street set Taylor on the trail of the glazed tiles. The City of London planners were keen for the facades to have a degree of solidity to reflect the Portland stone used in much of the buildings of the square mile. Rather than specifying stone cladding Taylor wanted a material that would offer more reflectance. Taylor and his colleagues stumbled on what they were after: a beautiful shimmering ceramic facade on Bury Street, Holland House dating from 1912, built by Dutch architect H.P. Berlage.
Sometimes a specification reads more like a detective story: The woman who would help Taylor uncover the secrets of the Holland House glaze was Christine Jetten, a Dutch artist and ceramisist. Through her work as a sculptor, she had built up an in-depth knowledge of the techniques and skills involved in glazing terracotta. Taylor took the phone to see how much she knew about the Holland House glazing. Luck was on his side: Jetten knew her stuff. She told Taylor the facade's mottle-green glazed ceramic tiles had been supplied by Royal Delft NL. As it turns out, Royal Delft had asked her to research and recreate their 1900-1950 glazes. Taylor and the KPF team had cracked it: through good fortune and perseverance, they had found the one person in the world who could help them with the green glaze.
Richard Taylor was delighted wiht the result of the collaboration, which delivered exactly the colour, tone and mottled ceramic finish he was after. So pleased in fact, that the other cladding elements were specified around the glazed ceramic panels.Alex smit, editor of 'Building'