2005China National Offshore Oil Corporation

Beijing, China

Corporate building: CNOOC headquarters

Architect: Hugh Trumbull, KPF


Beijing. Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation. Glaze design Christine Jetten  (2).JPG

Terracotta Today

Why Terracotta is a modern architect's Material of choice: Clay can take any shape or form. For this project the glaze colours and -textures are a modern translation of the walls (iron-red) and the roofs (yellow) in the Forbidden City. An effort was made to connect this very tall structure with the scale of the historic buildings. A lower structure, out of which a rounded tower arises, uses a custom designed iron-red textured glaze for the wall units and clay rods. This color was developed because it pays hommage to the walls of the ancient palaces.

CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation), Beijing.

The glazes, in a red and yellow color shade, symbolizing the traditional colors of the old imperial city of Beijing.


The red glaze of the plinth refers to the terracotta palaces of the Forbidden City nearby. SCJ not only designed the color but also the hammered texture of the glaze. The architect wanted a layered skin that had a different look when seen from a distance than up close: "Take it and move it into something really unique." H.T.   A special feature is the curved shape of some of the ceramic panels.


The immense atrium has been executed in the yellow of the roof tiles in the Forbidden City. The rounded triangular shape of the ceramic units makes for a lively play of light and shadow, which is reinforced by the tactile finish of the skin. 

Peter van Kester


The CNOOC project will develop a custom glaze in a red terracotta color similar to the Forbidden City Palace walls. "Take it and move it into something really unique", Hugh Trumbull

  • create a glaze that relates to the history

    Inspired by the palaces of the Forbidden City

  • Beijing Forbidden City  (1).JPG
  • Beijing Forbidden City  (2).JPG
  • research

    Glazes inspired by the walls and roofs of the ancient palaces

"Working in terracotta is absolutely fascinating – the material is so rich and powerful. I fully believe that understanding the process of creating the material, the fabrication, the science, the art, and of course the craftsmanship, unlocks terracotta's true potential for any project seeking design excellence. "

Hugh Trumbull, KPF


In view of both the complexity of each commission and a great significance of the respective sites.


  • Design Excellence Award, Beijing Urban Planning Commission 2003
  • HKIA Architecture Merit Award 2007
  • Sustainability in Design Award 2007
  • Beijing Urban Planning Commission Design Excellence Award 2009