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San-Fran Terracotta Guild

“With clay from a hole in the ground in Lincoln, California, the modern city of San Francisco has come.”

The San Francisco Examiner, 1928


Clay is the original mass-produced construction material. Terracotta—a type of fired clay—was extremely popular in construction during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The city of San Francisco, California boasts over 900 terracotta buildings. The material’s popularity came from its ability to imitate stone and its highly versatile nature, producing decorative facades that could also be mass-produced through re-useable moulds.


The 'Terracotta Guild of San Francisco' investigates the relationship between technology and craft, providing a platform for material testing and experimentation and presenting the building itself as a crafted landscape of terracotta.

The building is located at Pier 43, a timber clad ferry slip on the San Francisco pier-front which has a rich history of transporting goods into the city. Located on the water, the building acts as an extension of the pier and uses the network of slips around the Oakland and Sacramento area for the transportation of goods in and out of the building.

The buildings has four uses: a terracotta factory, a school of traditional and technological crafting methods, a testing facility to investigate potential uses for the material and a public landscape, which acts as a physical archive where people can visit and experience the wonders of architectural terracotta. This public landscape is situated on the top level of the building and allows views of the kilns, drawings rooms and making spaces, providing visitors with a comprehensive insight into the complex processes involved in the production.

The Guild is made up of many smaller buildings, creating a microcosmic world of terracotta and allowing the different states of production to be housed in uniquely designed spaces. The buildings are made from terracotta-clad concrete, displaying the versatilities of the material.

All images courtesy of Pui Quan Choi:

The Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 7.