Populated by luxury clothing purveyors, high-end restaurants and art and design shops, and just a short walk to museums, canals and Vondelpark, P.C. Hoofstraat in Amsterdam is a tourist destination for shopping (window or otherwise) and people-watching. Named in 1876 after Dutch historian, poet and playwright Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, the district has been undergoing a revitalization over the past decade or so with many an acclaimed architecture and design firm contributing compelling new facades to the urban fabric – among them, UNStudio’s Looking Glass, Crystal Houses by MVRDV and the Rose House by Studio Job. 

In Amsterdam, the 3D-printed facade of Ceramic House by Studio RAP was inspired by knitwear and ceramics.

The most-recently completed addition to this streetscape is Ceramic House, courtesy of Rotterdam-based Studio RAP. Commissioned by the same client behind the aforementioned facelifts to deliver another “marvelous design,” the studio devised a facade “with unprecedented richness in ornamentation and detailing, but in such a way that it would fit the legacy of the most famous street in the Netherlands,” says architect and co-founder Lucas ter Hall. To achieve this ambition, ter Hall and his team took influence from both the historic architecture of Amsterdam and the world-renowned ceramics collections at the nearby Rijksmuseum. 

Ceramic House 3D-printed modules in a pearl white glaze

Already experimenting with 3D-printing ceramics for another project (a pair of archways in Delft that are clad in 3D-printed tiles directly influenced by the rich blue porcelain the city is known for), Studio RAP continued that exploration here, with the art of high-performance knitwear informing the design. Translating the intricate layers of textiles – the elegant creases, inter-looping yarns and stitch patterns – into ceramic tiles and bricks with undulating surfaces, the team has managed to create a facade that is in harmony with its historical context while standing out among the surrounding structures. 

Three shades of red were used for the undulating brick-like tiles

Working with its own in-house large-scale 3D-printing technology, Studio RAP devised an algorithmic design strategy to create just the right level of detail for the approximately 3,000 ceramic tiles they would ultimately print. Taking care to reflect and respect the scale, size, type, colour and ornamentation that defines the surrounding architecture, the two resultant variations – a pearl white-glazed tile and an elongated and undulating brick-like tile in three shades of red – lend Ceramic House an utterly unique face and texture.

Ceramic House 3D-printed facade by Studio RAP in Amsterdam

While all are defined by surfaces with raised dimples, stitches and striations, no two tiles are exactly alike, adding another layer of originality to the overall design. “There’s an interesting analogy to make between traditional knitting patterns and the tiles we designed. Both follow conceptually the same set of instructions on how to construct items, but we used a 3D-printing technique and design algorithms instead resulting in what we call the pearl-stich that’s running over most tiles,” notes ter Hall. 

In Amsterdam, Studio RAP Unveils a 3D-Printed Ceramic House

Once all of the individual tiles were printed (a process that took roughly three months in total) they were taken to the site and affixed to 19 laser-cut stainless-steel cassettes with two different orientations – verticals measuring approximately 2.5-by-0.4 metres and horizontals at 1-by-0.5 metres. The cassettes follow the same sinuous forms of the tiles so that they sit flush within the frames without any visual seams.

In Amsterdam, Studio RAP Unveils a 3D-Printed Ceramic House

To ensure the new 13.5-metre-tall facade effectively complements its neighbours, the surrounding buildings were 3D scanned to replicate street’s tripartite structure and overall character with such elements as rowlock arches and cross bond brickwork. “The result is a unique architectural expression that seamlessly merges the historical significance of ceramics with the visual appeal of knitwear-inspired details, driven by new emerging digital technologies,” says ter Hall. 

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