img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2939831959404383&ev=PageView&noscript=1")

Fired with enthusiasm

Header Image

Words:
Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Deborah Osburn's book lovingly extolls the beauty of tiles

If you’ve ever been entranced by the tilework of the Alhambra or Seville’s riotously ostentatious 19th century Plaza España, marvelled at domestic Delftware or wondered at the Victorian polychromatic frenzy that is Leighton House in Kensington – then you’re a tile-head.

Relax. It’s okay – you’re not alone. After years in the wilderness, the humble tile is finally being reappraised by modern architecture, with the profession rediscovering a love of coloured ceramics. I’ve been blown away by the vibrant blues of OMA’s  azulejos-plastered  VIP lounge at Porto’s Casa da Música, thoroughly charmed by the floor of architect David Kohn’s Carrer Avinyo apartment in Barcelona, (done by the firm that supplied tiles to Gaudí) and nodded approvingly at the tessellated facade of FOA’s Ravensbourne College in Greenwich. It’s as if the traditional idea of ‘craft’, for so long at odds with the Bauhaus concept of mass production, is finally being welcomed into the canon of Modernism.

You'll see evidence of that in Deborah Osburn’s lovely book ‘Tile Envy’, which includes the last two quoted projects among nearly 60 examples of modern tile design and use. It turns out Osburn caught the bug 30 years ago when she came across a cathedral that was unremarkable but for its amazing spire of deeply coloured mosaic tiles. Since then, she developed an obsession, claiming her own part in their resurgence.

  • Carrer Avinyo apartment, Barcelona. David Kohn Architects.
    Carrer Avinyo apartment, Barcelona. David Kohn Architects. Credit: Jose Hevia Blach
  • Plaster and silicon tiles.
    Plaster and silicon tiles. Credit: Daniel Wilding
  • Concrete tiles by Timorous Beasties.
    Concrete tiles by Timorous Beasties.
  • Handpainted slipcast porcelain tiles – Giselle Hicks.
    Handpainted slipcast porcelain tiles – Giselle Hicks.
  • Cement and ceramic 'Hex' tiles by Kismet (Tracy Reinberg).
    Cement and ceramic 'Hex' tiles by Kismet (Tracy Reinberg).
  • Quartz 'Chini' tiles by the Isnik Foundation - reproducing Ottoman tiles from the 16th century.
    Quartz 'Chini' tiles by the Isnik Foundation - reproducing Ottoman tiles from the 16th century.
  • 'Fluffo pancakes' ceramic tile by artist. Greg Hicho.
    'Fluffo pancakes' ceramic tile by artist. Greg Hicho.
  • 'Swanson song' ceramic tiles by Greg Hicho.
    'Swanson song' ceramic tiles by Greg Hicho.
12345678

The book splits design types into ‘illustration’, ‘texture’ and ‘pattern’, with nearly 60 examples, ranging from one-off hand crafted ceramic ‘art’ tiles, to screen-printed and computer designed concrete ones. In fact, in 125 pages Osburn covers the full range of processes, materials and methodologies, offering a modern snapshot of the skills of the tile industry and the kind of designs that can be realised with them. I’ve yet to see the fruits of Grayson Perry’s ceramic collaboration with architect FAT at the Essex House for Living Architecture, but while I wait in cross-legged anticipation, Tile Envy substitutes as a satisfying compilation of curios.

Tile Envy by Deborah Osburn is published by Cicada Books. £17.95


 

Latest

On 24 November 2020 RIBAJ and PiP were joined by a group of architects and experts to discuss a range of education projects and how their design has been affected by a rapidly changing world

A panel of architects and experts discuss their education projects

Champion of multigenerational living with a human-centric approach, currently working at David Kohn Architects and Studio Nyali

Champion of the compound house for multigenerational living

A true balancing act between quality design, community and planning needs

Bringing design thinking to planning issues

Diligent, patient natural leader who delivers intricate projects beautifully

Diligent, patient natural leader

Committee of architects and architectural assistants tackling construction industry waste

Six reuse initiatives, three heading for commercial launch