My Object of Desire: tiles conceived for Torriano Primary School and GRC cladding at Camden School for Girls


Simple geometric objects can be repeated and arranged at different relational configurations to create compelling sequential structures. At AY Architects we are fascinated  by Sol LeWitt’s serial drawings, the constructivist works of Kenneth and Mary Martin, and James Stirling’s Andrew Melville Hall as a building that embraces seriality on many different levels.

We recently used serial processes in the design of two of our school building commissions for the London Borough of Camden. We made Flutes, a series of fluted tile types for the facade of a new entrance at Torriano Primary School, as yet unrealised, and a fifty-metre-long envelope of undulated glass-fibre reinforced concrete panels for the main building extension at Camden School for Girls

Above, below: drawing study of three profiles of ceramic tiles; serial configuration of two types of tiles milled in high-density foam; pleated GRC panels for Camden School for Girls. Fabrication and testing of ceramic pieces was done by Grymsdyke Farm and Viúva Lamego. Precast concrete work was by Amber Precast Group. The engineer was Price & Myers.

In developing Flutes we systematically drew the profiles of mouldings typically found in Victorian buildings and altered them to form a new, contextual and tactile elevation for the primary school. We tested a variety of techniques, sizes, materials and compositions of tiles; from small 3D-printed pieces to several CNC-milled high-density foam prototypes and 1:1 moulded ceramic casts.

Making pleated paper models helped us conceive the much larger envelope that wraps our design for the extension at Camden School for Girls, fronting a 1950s rough precast-concrete facade. As we pass by the building daily, we see how serial architecture can express rhythm, variation and the potential of surprise. This is because it evokes both order and chance while interplaying with time, the environment and inhabitation.