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News > Context Fall 2023 > Design Profile: The Clay Studio

Design Profile: The Clay Studio

Photo: Sam Oberter   
Photo: Sam Oberter   

Since 1974, The Clay Studio has been one of the world’s leading ceramic arts institutions, providing a unique learning and exhibition environment for diverse audiences to connect to the ceramic arts. Located on the American Street arts corridor in Kensington, TCS’s new 32,000 SF building provides community programming and outreach alongside a public gallery, world-class education, professional artist studios, and an artist-in-residence program. As an organization committed to design excellence, TCS sought a building design to showcase the expansive range of activities within the building in an expressive and innovative manner.  

The building’s striking exterior appearance takes cues from the surrounding context of historic brick warehouse buildings that dominated the area during Philadelphia’s industrial age. Traditional brickwork elements such as raking and corbelling are reinterpreted at a monumental scale to create a richly textured, undulating façade that is highlighted by vivid shadows throughout the day. Across the façade, textural buff-colored bricks reference the unglazed bisqueware pottery produced after a single kiln firing. This neutral backdrop is punctuated by bright accents of orange-glazed bricks that mark important public spaces within the building while referencing glaze-ware firing. The rhythmic pattern of windows showcases the wide range of activities taking place within the building. Gallery space, a demonstration studio, and a retail shop welcome the community at street-level. The emphasis on display continues at the upper stories where varied windows suggest a “curio cabinet” of activity, revealing educational classrooms, artist studios, state-of-the-art prototyping spaces, ceramic studios, and kiln rooms. Large openings at the building’s southern corner frame views into open-air event spaces along the street and roof levels, both lined with decorative hand-glazed bricks. A range of visualization techniques and prototyping were used to collaboratively arrive at a building that is a highly functional work of art. 

Project: The Clay Studio  

Location: Philadelphia, PA    

Client: The Clay Studio 

Project Size: 32,000 sf  

Project Team:  
DIGSAU (Architect)  

ENV (Structural Engineer)  

Chestnut Engineering (MEP Engineer) 

ReVision (Engagement/Sustainability) 

The Lighting Practice (Lighting) 

Photos: Sam Oberter   

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