Architectural ceramics: Maria Gasparian’s Story

Published: 26 Sep 2018

Author: Maria Gasparian
Architectural ceramics: Maria Gasparian’s Story

Maria Gasparian, a London-based ceramic designer and architect, travelled to the USA, the Netherlands and Hungary in 2016 to investigate the application, design and manufacturing of decorative architectural ceramics. Since her return, Maria has won several competitions and had a customised bench installed in the City of London.

The journey

For millennia, ceramics have been used to create everyday objects and architecture all over the world. Through her architectural practice, Maria had become passionate about the potential of coloured glazed ceramics to bring vibrancy and identity to places and create unique architecture. In 2016, she was able to develop this passion further, firstly by studying for a Master's degree in Ceramic Design, and secondly, by pursuing a Churchill Fellowship.

Below: Maria Gasparian

Maria Gasparian

She travelled for six weeks, studying historic and contemporary examples of projects that use decorative architectural ceramics to create socially-inclusive public spaces in cities. She was particularly interested in how relationships between artists, designers and industry can lead to successful outcomes.

A highlight of Maria’s travels was seeing the Bayard-Condict building in New York City, by Louis Sullivan (1899). “It was one of the most breath-taking buildings I have ever seen,” said Maria. “The elaborate sculptural detailing made out of repetitive ceramic elements created a cathedral-like quality.” Maria also visited the factory that carried out renovation works on this magnificent building and studied the original drawings and techniques used to create it.

Below: The Bayard–Condict building, New York City

The Bayard–Condict building

Through connections she gained on her travels, Maria has become a part of a global professional network that develops innovative solutions for architectural ceramics and shares knowledge through professional exchange, symposia and conferences.

The results

Since returning to the UK, Maria has begun a fully funded, practice-based PhD at Central Saint Martins, part of the University of the Arts London. This is inspired by the research she conducted on her Fellowship travels. The outcomes of her Doctoral studies will include guidelines for ceramic designers and architects aiming to use architectural ceramics to create socially inclusive convivial public places in UK cities.

Since her travels, Maria has also enjoyed many opportunities to showcase her work to new audiences. In October 2017 she won the Future Lights in Ceramics European competition, resulting in her taking part in a travelling exhibition in Berlin, Ljubljana and Prague as one of six Ambassadors for European Ceramics. In May 2018 she exhibited her work and presented a seminar at the Materials for Architecture exhibition in London.

Below: members of the public enjoy Maria’s public bench

Maria's public bench

Maria’s design for a public bench was selected by the London Festival of Architecture to be built in the city of London. The glazed ceramic bench, produced by Maria in collaboration with Wienerberger AG (the world's largest brick manufacturer), was situated in the Churchyard of St-Mary-le-Bow on Cheapside for two months during the summer of 2018 - and was greatly enjoyed by members of the public.

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