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Terra Cotta

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Photos:
Roving Rube

July 30, 2003

Church House of the First Presbyterian Church of NYC; 12 West 12th Street

1960, Edgar Tafel; New York City Landmark.
Gladding, McBean and Company. Green glazed, extruded terra cotta in combination with cast stone. Church House.
(Source: "Terra-Cotta Skyline", by Susan Tunick).

Edgar Tafel, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright (who himself used terra cotta as early as 1895), introduced extruded terra cotta into this handsome Church House. The use of terra cotta in New York after the early 1930s was fairly limited, and this is one of the best late examples to be found. The green-glazed terra cotta offers a strong vertical element to balance the horizontal bands of cast-stone latticework ornament.

The design of the terra cotta runs in one direction, which makes it possible for the pieces to be extruded rather than pressed into a mold. In this method, a die with the profile of the desired shape is attached to the extruding machine, which pushes clay through in a continuous "ribbon." The extruded clay is then cut into units of appropriate size. The process can be very roughly equated with squeezing toothpaste through a tube to create a long, round cylindrical form. (Terra Cotta: Don't Take It For Granite, by Susan Tunick, p. 20).





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