A standout case study from Manufacturing Architecture: An Architect’s Guide to Custom Processes, Materials and Applications by Dana K Gulling

In association with


Mangado y Asociados

Manufacturing Architecture: An Architect’s Guide to Custom Processes, Materials and Applications by Dana K Gulling is the first reference guide to customising repetitive manufacturing for architects. Clear diagrams and narratives explain twenty of the most common manufacturing processes for typical building components. Case studies, including Mangado y Asociados’ Spanish Expo Pavilion in Zaragoza (below), show how these processes can be customised in order to create variation, lower costs, decrease production waste and use a wider selection of materials.

Case Study: Column cladding for the Spanish Expo Pavilion
Location: Zaragoza, Spain
Architect: Mangado y Asociados

From June to September 2008 Zaragoza hosted an international exposition with the theme of ‘Water and Sustainable Development’. Francisco Mangado of Mangado y Asociados designed the expo’s Spanish Pavilion in keeping with the expo’s theme using recycled and recyclable materials (glass, ceramic, steel, wood, and cork) as its primary materials.


Dry fitting of terra cotta cladding over steel column during construction

The building is a forest of vertical members that connect the pool at the base of the building to the thin roof at its top. Some of the members are structural while others serve as drainpipes from the roof. Each is clad in custom-extruded terracotta components. There are two different diameters of extrusions – approximately 12in and 8in (300mm and 200mm). Extrusion was selected as it could produce the 28,000 units economically, practically, and within the desired time frame.

Natural colour variations of the terra cotta cladding

Mangado wanted to use terracotta as the Pavilion’s exterior material because it expresses a tradition in Spanish architecture while interpreting a contemporary aesthetic. Colour was one of the more difficult challenges with this component. Mangado wanted the terracotta to be unglazed with its natural kiln finish and to vary between components, but keep within the same tonality. Colour variation was achieved by baking the components at different temperatures, ranging from 1830–2200°F (1000–1200°C).

Two ceramics manufacturers came together for the project – Ceramic Cumella (founded in 1880 and located in Barcelona), and Decorativa (founded in 1862 and located in Valencia). Together, Decorative-Cumella developed Mangado’s design and managed material development and production. It made many prototypes to determine colours and colour variants. Different pieces were made to determine how the colour varied when baking at different temperatures. The manufacturer also tested to see whether the different firing temperatures affected the components’ mechanical properties and physical behaviour, such thermal expansion.


Extrusion process

The terracotta components were extruded with a temporary internal structure that would support the round shape as it exited the extruder, and during firing. A small neck was formed in the connection between the internal support and the interior face of the component, to facilitate breaking with little to no damage to the component. Internal pockets were formed on the inside face, along the length of the extrusion. These pockets were for construction purposes, as they fit over pin connectors attached to the columns’ supporting brackets, keeping the components in place.


Detail image of terra cotta profile before firing

Decorative-Cumella was able to produce 100 units a day – approximately 2,750 units or 8,120ft (2,500 metres) per month. The units were cut to length with a wire as they came out of the extruder. Post-production trimming was required to make the ends of the units square, so that they sat properly on their supports.

For this project, Mangado learned the importance of collaboration and the value of a strong relationship between the architect and the manufacturer. Mangado believes that constant communication from the very beginning made the process much easier. He felt that the working relationship between his office and the manufacturer was positive and enthusiastic, and if there were any difficulties they were addressed easily. Overall, Mangado learned a lot about collaboration from this project. He wrote, “It could also well be the one [building] I have most learned from. It is now completely autonomous, but each and every piece of it, each joint, each sequence, continues to tell me that architects cannot cease to be constructors. We cannot accept administrative impositions of the separation of project and construction work.”


The terracotta pieces have proved to be quite durable. It was predicted that as many as 10 per cent of the 28,000 pieces would break, but only one per cent actually did. Years later, Mangado finds that the terracotta is still in perfect condition and has even improved with age.

Manufacturing Architecture: An Architect’s Guide to Custom Processes, Materials and Applications By Dana K Gulling Laurence King Publishing, £65

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