New Delft Blue

New Delft Blue is a groundbreaking project in the historic Dutch city of Delft, conceived and 3D printed by Studio RAP. This initiative reimagines the iconic decorative qualities and design elements of Delft Blue porcelain. By integrating 3D clay printing, computational design, and artisanal glazing, New Delft Blue aims to explore new architectural possibilities for ceramic ornamentation in the 21st century. The PoortMeesters residential complex, part of the extensive Nieuw Delft urban redevelopment, features a lush communal courtyard framed by two grand entry gates. Each gate, approximately four meters wide, eight meters high, and twelve meters deep, spans a large public staircase. These gates evoke Delft’s medieval trading city heritage with its numerous city gates, offering passers-by a view of the serene life inside.

Inspired by traditional Delft Blue porcelain plates, the gates’ design reflects the evolution from copying Oriental motifs to creating contemporary Dutch designs. The design’s central concept—an ornamental, nature-inspired frame surrounding an idyllic scene—remains consistent. In the New Delft Blue project, the idyllic scene is the dynamic courtyard life, framed by three-dimensional gates with algorithmically designed, nature-inspired patterns, guiding people from the public space to the semi-public courtyard. The gates are clad in approximately 3,000 unique ceramic tiles, all 3D printed to create contemporary ceramics that are both intricate and unique.

The algorithmic design process accounted for manufacturing constraints such as maximum overhang, dimensions, shrinkage, and internal support structures. The 3D printing technology allowed for variations in tile shapes, enabling a poetic ‘painting with shapes’. A transparent blue runny glaze applied to the tiles results in a light blue color on the convex surfaces and deep blue glaze pools in the concave areas, producing smooth transitions between blue hues. This deep blue color connects to Delft Blue porcelain and the surrounding canals, offering a striking contrast to the building’s earth-toned brickwork. Combining these elements, the project modernizes Delft’s identity, intertwining its historical references with cutting-edge design and 3D printing technology.

Studio RAP strives to reinstate the architect’s pivotal role in designing and realizing the built environment. By integrating architectural design, digital fabrication, and contracting, they have taken an entrepreneurial approach to reclaim a significant role in the building process. This approach introduces a new architectural language that is both expressive and contemporary, embodying digital craftsmanship. Studio RAP aims to reintroduce custom-made ornamentation into architecture, blending advanced digital design and fabrication technologies. New Delft Blue exemplifies their commitment to enriching the world with an innovative architectural language, breaking barriers and creating a more exciting and diverse built environment.

Photographer: Riccardo De Vecchi / content provider: v2com

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