Project Profiles: Education

Alfred University’s New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred, N.Y.

The addition to the 1952 McMahon Engineering Building is transformed into a work of art with a theme reflective of the ceramics art and science curriculum.

The addition to the 1952 McMahon Engineering Building is transformed into a work of art with a theme reflective of the ceramics art and science curriculum.

Retrofit Team

Architect: NBBJ Architecture, Boston
Mason: King Brothers Construction, North Java, N.Y., (585) 535-7526

Materials

NBBJ Architecture was faced with a design challenge at Alfred University’s New York State College of Ceramics (NYSCC). A creative concept helped transform an addition to the 1952 McMahon Engineering Building into a work of art with a theme reflective of the ceramics art and science curriculum.

The building would hold the NYSCC’s sensitive imaging equipment used in creating ceramic artwork and lab testing engineered ceramics. But the design team at NBBJ envisioned a broader purpose for this space. “Our goal was to give some character to what could have been a simple concrete box,” says William Voulgaris, AIA, NBBJ principal and architect. “In trying to be relevant to the ceramic school, we wanted to use an unconventional, forward-thinking material in the design.”

The college originally wanted the building to be tiled with actual ceramics, which was impractical because the tiles would not hold up to the weather or normal wear and tear. Instead, NBBJ Architecture specified glazed block, which has the advantages of masonry but with the illusion of ceramic tile. The architects vertically placed Astra-Glaze SW+ in a random pattern. When scored down the center, the product looks like ceramic material. Bold colors add to the illusion.

The units are pre-faced architectural concrete masonry blocks featuring a thermoset glazing compound permanently molded on one or more faces. This exterior is cured and heat-treated to create an impervious surface that repels water and resists mold, is easy to clean and installs in one step. It also is resistant to graffiti and has a four-hour fire rating.

“At first, we were a little concerned about how the glaze facing on the blocks would weather in New York’s extreme environment,” Voulgaris adds. “However, Echelon representatives showed us some good examples of past performance on other building façades and came up with solutions to help make it easier for the masons to lay the block as designed.” The product was used for the entire outer face of the building and for common areas on interior walls.

Glazed Block Manufacturer: Echelon Masonry

Photos: Echelon Masonry

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