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Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

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sidered marketable until regional developments and improvements place it
within reach.

Plans for cutting some of this timber in accordance with scientific for-
estry methods already have been prepared and in a few localities operations
have been started. In some places it has been found necessary to remove
mature trees in order to give the young growth a chance. This work is
being done largely by local residents, who have bought the stumpage and
are converting it into lumber. The construction of roads and trails is mak-
ing more and more timber accessible to lumber operators, but the principal
use of these improvements at present is for local communication, fire pro-
tection, and to open up the wild land for recreation use. .A secondary in-
fluence of the improvements is to increase the value of the land and to make
the timber on it more accessible and valuable to operators.

A great deal of the forest land within the purchase areas was cut over or
culled before the government acquired it. Nearly all of this class of land,
however, is covered now with young growth and even the abandoned farm
acreage, which forms about two per cent of the whole, is slowly rex'erting
to forest.

Of mature timber which could be placed on the market at once, the
eastern national forests contain a total of about 1,100,000,000 board feet,
which includes all the common eastern hardwoods, together with nuich
s|)ruce, a good deal of hemlock, and some jiine. The land, including the
timber, has been bought at an average ]irice of a little more than $5 an acre.
More than 5,000,000 acres of this land will eventually be acquired for
national forests in the east, if the recommendation made by the National
Forest Reservation Commission in its last annual report is carried out.



The Architect and Eno'mecr



77




Architectural Terra Cotta

By iMR. OSWALD SPEIR*

EACH year the present system of steel architecture, clothed
and made beautiful with brick and terra cotta, commends
itself more and more to client and architect. When weath-
ered, ground and shaped by intelligence, it becomes one of the
most perfect and enduring building materials. Fire cannot
Inirn it, nor weather destroy it. Triumphantly it survives frost
and mocks at decay. In the ruins of Assyria, Babylon, and
Xincvah, debris has been found which bears still, ineffaceable
cliaracters and records of those strange people who are so re-
mote from the present that they seem to have lived in some
nther planet. Nothing in our museums is more jealously
guarded than those clay tablets whose inscriptions learned
professors have spent years in deciphering, and from which
w c know what manner of civilization they commemorate ; nay,
further still, the antiquarian goes back to ruins which antedate
all that is yet known of the history of man, although upon them
arc clearly traced the records of four thousand years.

The Assyrians, Phoenicians, and Babylonians, as well as the
F.gyptians, employed terra cotta in various ways, for both in
and out door use, as well as in architecture ; Sarcophagi, utensils
for the house, and garden ornaments, were among them. But
to all these offices was added the preservation of records by
means of slabs or cylinders of the same material. On these were stamped by
the stylus, hieroglyphic signs indicating all that remains to the moderns of
those personal events, wars and dynasties which give the data for chronology.
Distinguished archeologists are sent by governments to critically supervise
the ]\Iussulmans as they upturn the old dust of temples, palaces and
mausoleums, to find still further records laboriously traced in the world's
earlier youth, upon a substance which outlives pillars of steel or of granite.
In Chaldea, also, terra cotta was employed for interior and exterior of all
kinds of buildings. Colored bricks were arranged in simple but effective
patterns, creating pleasing effects. They were easily cleansed, inexpensive,
and durable. The Etruscans produced statues in terra cotta very creditable
to their technical knowledge of the art. The Greeks must have used terra
cotta from time immemorial. Homer mentions sun-dried brick, and life-sized
statues have been found formed from native clay. Figurines, grotesque
and beautiful, and Tanagras were frequently deposited in the tomlis, even
as late as the second century. A.s an architectural material, however, except
for cheneaux, acroteria and sometimes for frieze, terra cotta was used but
little by the Greeks, their beautiful marble being so accessible.

The Romans, however, very freely employed brick and terra cotta. The
arch of the Cloaca Maxima, the oldest piece of masonry extant in Rome, is
made of tile or coarse terra cotta, thin, large and oblong in shape, peculiar
to that date. Many of the walls of temples, palaces, arches, monuments
and tombs are of the same material.

In some cases these walls were faced with marble which h.'is become
defaced, the more enduring clay material still remaining. In the early
development of Roman construction, clay material was frequently used as
a decoration, sometimes colored with simple pigment or a wash paint.

•Paper read by Mr. Oswald Speir, Los Angeles, representative of Gladding, McBean & Co., at a
meeting of the Southern California Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles,
September 14. 1915.



78 The Architect and Engineer

Early History and Development in the Old World

During the long following period, the clay industry suffered a decline.
It was reserved for the fertile plains of Lombardy, which was almost desti-
tute of stone, to carr)' forward the manufacture of terra cotta to its greatest
measure of success during' the four centuries from the twelfth to the
sixteenth. It was tlien used in construction and decoration in a manner
original and exquisite. Some of the church fronts and spires and campaniles
of Pavia, the hospital and Castiglione palace of Milan, and the beautiful
Certosa, and many of the villas and private houses were built during the
latter portion of that period. It may be called the golden age of terra cotta.
Among all these interesting e.xamples, that of Certosa stands eminent. This
monastic building was the most superb ever erected by any order, and
served to shelter only thirty monks; yet since its foundation, some five
hundred years ago, the rich decorations of its matchless cloisters have
served a higher purpose, that of typifying the existence of art in stone
and clay.

But the father of real artistic work in terra cotta was Luca della Robbia,
who was born in Florence at the beginning of the fifteenth centurj', probably
about the year 1400, and who died in the year 1481. As a sculptor he was
not regarded as the equal of his contemporaries, Ghilberti and Donatello,
but his name is even more widely known, through his experiments and his
discoveries in ceramics.

While yet a boy, Luca, following the fashion of many art students of his
time, became the apprentice of the best goldsmith of his native city. For
the boy did not then disdain to climb by patient, toilsome steps to the
height of his career, through the minute details to be acquired by cunning
workmanship in gold, silver or even brass.

Becoming dissatisfied with his profits in bronze, and marble, and reflect-
ing that it cost but little trouble to work in clay, which is easily managed ,
and that only one thing was required, namely, to find some method by which
the work produced in that material should be rendered durable, he studied
with so much good will on the subject, that lie finally discovered the means
of defending such productions from the injuries of time.

After having made experiments innumerable, Luca found that if he
covered his figures with a coating of glaze, formed from the mixture of thin,
litharge, antimony and other minerals and mixtures, carefully prepared by
the action of fire in a furnace made for the purpose, the desired effect was
produced to perfection and almost endless durability might thus be
acquired, and secured to works in clay. For this purpose, then. Luca, as
being its inventor, received the highest praise, and indeed, all future ages
will be indebted to him.

His first known essays in the so-called "Robbia" ware were made aliout
the year 1436, after that long study and repeated experiments which usher
in all inventions of genuine merit.

Ten years later, Luca's first painted tiles in the ware which bears his
name, and which was made for Benozi Fraderighi, Bishop of Fiesole in the
Church of San Francesco e Paolo. This tomb was among the finest monu-
ments in Tuscany. P'rom that time his skill gave him a fame which has
survived all minute knowledge of his life, save as it is known by his works.
By comparing all other pottery of the time with that made by him. the
character and solidity of the works of della Robbia are manifest. Indeed,
like our modern potters, his secrets were so well kept that for one-fourtli of
a century no other artisan in clay manufactured ware surfaced with a similar
enamel. What he may have learned of the Moorish potters of Spain, we



The Architect ami Engineer 79

have no means of knowing. It is a matter of fact that the}' had obtained
great skill in the manufacture of what we now call terra cotta. and many
very beautiful examples are found throughout Spain, not only in their
potterv and tiles, but in some of their very beautiful temples and palaces.

Gradually the process of della Robbia became known and was adopted
in other potteries of Italy and France. Meanwhile the nephew, Andrea,
with his four sons, carried on the work. Luca, the younger one of the four
sons of Andrea, may be really the author of many of the reliefs attributed to
the elder. There arc many distinguishing marks in common. Under the
other relatives, however, art work in terra cotta began to decline.

.After the sixteenth century, and the change in architectural style, the
designing of more elaborate structures which mark the florid treatment
which had come into vogue, carried the demand far beyond the experience
of those artists and artisans who were engaged in the work. It gradually
spread into other countries, however, even in its decadence. One of the
Lucas introduced it into F"rance, where the Chateau de Madrid was decor-
ated by him under Francis I. Yet its use has never been abandoned ; in the
south of France, north of Germany, and along the Baltic, it is found in all
kinds of buildings in balustrades, balconies, turrets, spires, and in mural
decorations of various kinds. It makes, in its soft shade and divers forms,
a pleasing and varied effect, quite diflferent from the cheap ginger bread
work of cheap wooden villa decorations, as its substance is more substantial.
Less than a century since, a pottery was started in Milan for the making of
terra cotta in that city. In England it was practically two hundred years
since coarse earthen ware was produced, yet when Wedgwood concen-
trated his energies upon refining the quality of terra cotta, its improvement
was marked and rapid.

Early History and Development in the United States
Within the last few years, the Doultons have obtained widespread fame
from the productions of their potteries in Lambeth. In fact one of the
earliest is of ware which came from Stamford, England, used in the Fine
Arts Museum of Boston, of which Messrs. Sturgis & Brigham of Boston
were the architects. This was the result, however, of an early revival in
this country, which had been brought about by Mr. Renwick. architect of St.
Patrick's Cathedral, through his knowledge and delight in the material, as
the result of his study of Italian work. At about the period 1850 to 1855. he
caused terra cotta to be made by potters who had had no previous e.xperi-
ence in the art, for such buildings as the St. Denis hotel. Cooper Union.
Trinity building, and several other similar constructions. These attempts
were not very successful, however, and a lull in its use occurred. It was
revived by its use in Boston in the Fine Arts Museum, and perhaps more
legitimately we might say that the spasm of cast iron, wdiich swept the
country in the early seventies, developed a demand which terra cotta filled.
The Perth Amboy Terra Cotta Compan}^ was started in 1879. under the
encouragement of such men as G. B. Post. McKim. Mead & W^hite, H. H.
Hardenburg, F. H. Kimball, Carrere and Hastings, Cyrus Eidlitz. Burnham.
Sullivan and many others.

During this period we saw some of the best results that have been
obtained in modeling and sculpture.

Modern Practice
We have the material : modern construction, owner and architect are
demanding its use, but our problem is its most legitimate use. Just as w-e
frequently use stone where brick would have been much more effective, so



80 The Architect and Eng^inccr

we often use terra cotta where stone would have been more suitable and
vice versa.

Before, however, entering upon any discussion of the merits of terra
cotta, a short explanation is necessary of the point of view from which this
discussion is taken. It will be necessary to make it comparative, and to
show that in certain respects and for certain purposes terra cotta is prefer-
able to stone ; but it must not be supposed that we are foolish enough to
claim that the comparison is all in favor of terra cotta, or that for certain
purposes the use of appropriate kinds of stone is not to be preferred. Stone
has obvious advantages in the construction and ornamentation of a building,
with which brick and terra cotta cannot pretend to compete, and it is
absolutely essential to the proper use of terra cotta in this country that
the strong' and weak points of the two classes of material should be clearly
understood. Such an understanding would be extremely beneficial both to
the terra cotta and the stone industries, because the two materials are at
bottom supplementary, rather than competitive. Terra cotta is not a substi-
tute for stone. Under certain conditions and for certain architectural efTect
terra cotta should not be used. Under other conditions and for other archi-
tectural effects, stone of one kind or another should be used. The trouble
is that many architects and many more laymen do not fully understand
what the comparative merits of the two materials are ; and consequently
they frequently use stone when terra cotta would have better served their
purpose, or they use terra cotta when a more appropriate effect could have
been obtained with stone. Nor is that all. The comparative use of the two
materials is confused by the fact that terra cotta is cheaper and more flexible
material than stone and that consequently it is often used as a substitute
for stone, not because the architect wants to use terra cotta but because
he cannot afford to use stone. Under such circumstances, he usually com-
promises by specifying a kind of terra cotta which is made to look as much
as possible like stone ; and the manufacturer of terra cotta is required to
produce a "sham" material in which the substantial and characteristic
merits of each material is sacrificed for the sake of putting up a false appear-
ance. The terra cotta makers naturally dislike to manufacture a material
for which they obtain no credit, and which has no advantage save cheap-
ness ; and for years they have protested against the merely imitative use
of terra cotta. Their protests have had some effect. Terra cotta is now
being used more intelligently and more appropriately, as well as more
extensively, than ever before ; and what is still more important, it is being used
more largely just because it is being used more appropriately. As a substitute
for stone, and consequently as the competitor of the many compositions which
are now being placed on the market, it has no future at all ; but as an indepen-
dent material, which for certain uses, both esthetic and practical, has indisput-
able and peculiar merits. It has a future, which is only limited by the future
of American fireproof construction.

I have already referred to the fact that terra cotta is frequently specified
instead of stone merely, and only, because it is cheaper, but this matter of
the comparative economy of terra cotta deserves further consideration. Its
comparative cheapness, while it is one great source of the popularity of terra
cotta, is also the principal cause of its abuse as a building material, so that
it cannot be called an unqualified advantage. It leads to the manufacture
of very inferior grades of the material for the ornamental adornment of
cheap buildings ; and it has had the disadvantage of associating terra cotta
in the minds of certain people with various cheap types of construction
and habitation. As a matter of fact, terra cotta, while it can be cheapened



The Architect and Engineer 81

like any other iiianufactiired article, is only really economical when it is
very well made and when consequently a comparatively stiff price is charged
for it. Terra cotta, which has been properly put together and burnt, is
more durable than stone, but such a qualit}^ of terra cotta, while it is
economical, is not necessarily cheap. It may cost what seems to be a large
sum, but in that case it will be worth the sum it costs. The question of its
expense as compared to stone is one into which we do not need to go in
detail. It all depends upon many varying considerations, such as the
amount and character of the material required, the location of the nearest
available quarries, and the extent to which the material must be ornamented.

The question which the architect should as a rule seriously ask is not
whether terra cotta is cheaper than stone, but whether it will be possible
for liim to obtain in any other material an equally satisfactory service and
effect for a similarly economical price.

The characteristic advantages of terra cotta depend upon two funda-
mental facts, — the fact, in the first place, that it is capable of being moulded
before it is hardened, and the fact that, in the second place, it is hardened
by a process of burning and firing. The first fact is responsible for its
flexible adaptation to architectural ornamental forms while the second fact
is responsible for its durability and for its high value as an ornamental, or
something more than an ornamental adjunct to a system of fireproof con-
struction.

The fact that terra cotta is in a soft and plastic condition, before it is
burnt, and that consequently it can be moulded into a desired shape at a
comparatively small expense, is the chief source of its availability for
purpose of architectural ornament. The same sort of ornament can be cut
in stone, but only at a ver>- considerable cost. The moulders of terra cotta
work with comparative rapidity, and a mould when it is once finished can
be used, if desired, fiir many duplicates of the same ornamental detail or
motive. It affords the architect the opportunity of examining the full-size
reproduction of the form or the ornament he proposes to use while the clay
is still in a pliable condition, and he can in this waj' assure himself that his
detail is properly designed and vigorously and correctly modeled. It need
not be finally burnt and hardened until he is absolutely and finally satisfied
with his own work and that of the modeler.

In the earlier stages of the use of terra cotta in this country, it was the
foregoing advantage which chiefly appealed both to the architect and the
builder. It afforded them a method of ornamenting a building bj' means
of solid form and without going to the expense of stone carving. Stone
carving was generally preferred, because it was possible in this way to
obtain greater accuracy of line and a more precise and subtile effect : but
in a great many cases accuracy of line and precision of effect were not
desirable and in such cases terra cotta had a field of use which was abso-
lutely its own. Its flexibility and economy for ornamental purpose remains
one of the main sources of its popularity, but with the development of the
art of fireproof construction, it has been found that terra cotta had various
other advantages, both esthetic and practical, which enormously enlarged
its special field of service. Other characteristics, such as its durability, its
lightness, and its fire-resisting qualities, began still more to commend it to
builders and curiously enough, it began also to be discovered that it was as a
rule artistically most eft'ective when it served most excellently the foregoing
practical needs. It was in buildings, the ornament and structure of which
needed to be particularly light, durable and uninflammable, that the texture.



82 The Architect and Engineer

the culor and the Icjrni of terra cotta ornament or surface C(-)vering proved
to be most useful to the architect.

That terra cotta is, when properly made, more durable, lighter and less
easily damaged by fire than stone, does not need any elaborate proof. Its
consistency and its hollowness necessarily make it light. For convenience
of burning', it must be made hollow and only moderately thick, and a given
bulk, consequently, weighs very much less than a similar bulk of stone. A
block of granite, for instance, containing one cubic foot, weighs about 168
pounds; a block of sandstone somewhere between 100 and 170 pounds, and
a block of limestone about 144 pounds. A solid block of terra cotta of the
same size would weigh about 120 pounds, while the hollow terra cotta
cube, such as is ordinarily used, does not weigh more than 70 pounds. As
to its durability and indestructibility, that again is a direct result of its
process of manufacture. The heat through which a well-made block of terra
cotta is passed, is so much higher than the heat to which a building is likely
to be exposed, that the material is well prepared to withstand any further
vicissitudes of that kind.

A light, durable, luiinflammable material is rendered, of cmirse, peculi-
arly necessary by the characteristically American system of fireproof con-
struction. A building, the walls of which are carried upon a towering steel
structure, has very different needs from a building of ordinary construction.
The old masonry house cannot economically rise above a certain moderate
height, and in a building of moderate height, the mere weight of the
masonry is an important source of architectural effect. It is no wonder,
consequently, that the architects of such buildings have used stone wherever
stone was economically available. But in the case of a building, the
weight of which is carried on a steel frame, walls and partitions composed
of light and peculiarly fireproof materials are desirable, both for the sake
of economy and for the sake of appearance. The lighter the walls, the
lighter the cag'e which has to carry them. These walls are only curtains, or
screens, and like all curtains and screens, should be comparatively slight,
rather than heavy, both in appearance and reality.

The demands of this form of construction and of its appropriate deco-
ration, are at present better satisfied by terra cotta than b\' any other
material.

The consequence is that the tallest and best designed sky-scrapers
recently erected throughout the United States, both in New York and
Chicago, have been encased in terra cotta. Sometimes stone is used for the
few lower stories, because architects like the effect of a heavier looking
base. But above in such sky-scrapers as the Woolworth building, \\^ana-
maker store, both in New York and Philadelphia, the building of the Inter-
national Banking Company, the Times building in New York, the Railway
Exchange buildings in Chicago and our most important buildings on the
coast, the whole superficial effect of the structure is obtained from a terra
cotta coating. Moreover, this terra cotta is being used to the very best
advantage. A few years ago in any of the large office buildings, it was
customary to crown the structure with terra cotta ornament on a large
scale, but no matter how well designed or how well made this ornament
was placed too far from the street to be effective. Now the tendenc)' is
to make the terra cotta effective chiefly by means of a consistent and
])leasant color tone. There is little attempt to give any depth to the surface
of the building by heavy ornament. The decoration is kept frankly super-
ficial and is obtained, if not simply from color, mass and salient line, then



77(1- Archilcct and Eng^lnccr 83

from the arrantjcnient ol" the terra cotta blocks into proi)ortions, scale and
color. This method of decorating a sky-scraper, which has tiie merit of



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayThe Architect & engineer of California and the Pacific Coast (Volume v.43 (Oct.-Dec. 1915)) → online text (page 7 of 44)