Detail Matters: Ceramic Precision

The most striking change to downtown Dallas’ 1950s-era 1217 Main Street building, home to The Commissary, is plainly visible — its exterior. Headington Cos. commissioned Cuban-born artist Jorge Pardo to conceptualize the ceramic tile mosaic, with a rain screen facade system made from 36,215 glazed ceramic tiles. The remodeled building, once home to a bank, opened in December 2017.

Headington Cos. and Pardo challenged the team to design, engineer, and construct a ceramic tile facade with no visible control and expansion joints, panel or module seams, or shadow lines. Artistic intent required the building to read as a single plane of tile.

The use of ceramic on the exterior of any building is a challenge because, unlike porcelain, a ceramic-bodied tile absorbs water; when the ceramic expands and contracts from temperature changes, the tile will sprawl. 5G Studio worked with the contractor and fabricator to develop a custom triple-fired, polymer-modified ceramic bisque that, when tested, achieved a water absorption percentage that classifies it as impervious — the same classification as porcelain.

The expansion and contraction of each tile is isolated by being hand-set onto a dedicated aluminum dead-load angle that is a part of a larger aluminum rain screen system.

Project Team:

Headington Cos.
5G Studio Collaborative
Paul Merrill, AIA; Yen Ong, AIA; Josh Allen
5G Studio Collaborative
Paul Merrill, AIA
MEP Engineer:
RTM Associates
Choice Engineering
Structural Engineer:
Armstrong-Douglass Partners
Civil Engineer:
Facade Consultant:
Lighting Designer:
PHDC lighting
Food Service Consultant:
Complete Restaurant Services

Contributed by Ezra Loh, Assoc. AIA, with Droese Raney Architecture in collaboration with Paul Merrill, AIA.

Contributed by:
Ezra Loh
Assoc. AIA

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Adam Mork
Credit: Adam Mork
Adam Mork
Credit: Adam Mork
Adam Mork
Credit: Adam Mork