Printer Friendly

Faraway: Semih Kaplan: B Burak Kaptan describes the content and process in the installation of Turkish ceramic tile.

People today spend a considerable amount of time indoors, they need a particular space in the mornings as working environment, in the afternoons for lunches and in the evenings for living and sleeping and also for their entertainment activities and hobbies. In other words, the use of spaces is now an indispensable part of daily life for individuals. Therefore, interiors are designed according to the needs and tastes of users. No matter whether these arrangements are purposeful or improvised, they reflect the culture and identity of users.

The most important objective of a designer is to create a perception of space through the correct selection of materials that are suitable for the activities of the user and reflect his/her identity and culture. Materials build up the atmosphere and visual aspects of interiors through colours and textures. Therefore, it is necessary to analyse the relationships between function, user and space in order to be able to make a conscious selection of these design elements. Such analyses provide invaluable data regarding the quality and variety of the materials to be used in interior design.

One of the potential materials used in spaces is ceramic. Having been used in buildings and also interiors as construction and flooring materials since earlier times of history, ceramic has brought both a functional and an aesthetic dimension to design practices, thanks to modern production techniques. As a result, interiors have acquired a multi-functional dimension depending on the use of ceramics in designs.

Ceramic Tile as a Material in Interiors

Tile is used as an important flooring material in buildings, especially in facades, surrounding environments and in interiors. "Tile flooring materials used in interiors are solid and durable. Depending on the shape of the individual pieces and the pattern in which they are laid, these flooring materials can have a cool, formal appearance or convey an informal feeling to a room. Tile flooring is set with grout." (1) Generally, there are two types of tile applications: Ceramic tile and quarry tile. "Ceramic tile is a surface unit, usually relatively thin in relation to facial area, made from clay or a mixture of clay and other ceramic materials, having either a glazed or unglazed face." (2) The glazed surface is one of the most significant characteristics of ceramic tiles. The layer called 'glaze' is applied to tile through firing and it brings quality to the ceramic surface, so a glazed surface becomes an inherent part of ceramic tile. Glazes can be classified according to their characteristics: "Ceramic tile glazes are bright glaze, clear glaze, crystalline glaze, fritted glaze, matte glaze, opaque glaze, raw glaze, semi-matte glaze and speckled glaze." (1) It is necessary to take into consideration the aesthetic values matching with the function and atmosphere of the interior while selecting the most convenient glaze type.

Secondly, "quarry tile is glazed or unglazed ... more of a facial area and is made by the extrusion process from natural clay or shale." (2) Some other common types of tile are glazed wall tile, ceramic mosaic tile, paver tile, abrasive tile and antistatic tile. And also, "terracotta tile, which is made from fired clay, can be made with decorative sculptural forms, as well as in special shapes (square, rectangular, hexagon and octagon arabesque circular) for various architectural uses." (3) "The US tile industry classifies tile based on sizes ... Tile is also classified according to its resistance to water absorption (Nonvitreous tile 7.0 percent, impervious tile 0.5 percent or less, semivitreous tiles are classified between nonvitreous and impervious tile)." (2) But "European manufacturers classify tile according to its production method (either the dust-press or extrusion method), degree of water absorption, finish and whether it is glazed or unglazed." (2) Especially nonvitreous tiles are used indoors as wall tiles and semivitreous tiles are only used indoors, on walls and floors.

"Ceramic tile, in a range of sizes, shapes, colours and textures, permits a great variety of colour and pattern treatments. Small tile, usually called mosaic tile, promotes textural and patterned effects." (3) This variety helps the creation of a certain atmosphere through practical, aesthetic and symbolic values depending on the types of applications. Although ceramic tile production dates back to earlier times of history, it is now possible to carry out detailed manufacturing thanks to technological advancements. Shaped by hand in the past in Turkey, ceramic tiles are now manufactured by many companies using up-to-date techniques and methods. In order to ensure quality standards, companies collaborate with accreditation institutions. Therefore, they can be used and preferred in almost every space and in different sections of these spaces, especially in wet areas where cleaning and water use are necessary and when circulation density is an important factor.

"Some glazed finishes may be slippery, so their use for floors must be carefully considered in regard to safety." (1) It is an important advantage that these grounds are free from bacteria, allergens and bad odours. They must also be resistant to slipping and impact, which determines the thickness and hardness of ceramic tile. Generally, the tiles used on walls are relatively thinner and less resistant to impact and heavy loads. "Ceramic tiles are used in high traffic and functional areas as well as for decorative effects including murals and sculptures." (4)


Designers take many criteria into consideration while selecting ceramic tiles they will use. First of all, practical function should be analysed. The first criterion for this choice is "suitability to basic utilitarian purpose, and the secondary criteria are durability in anticipated use, ease of maintenance, repairing, cleaning, resistance to damage and safety." (3) Later, the demands and tastes of users should be evaluated. The criteria for aesthetic function involve "availability of desired natural or applied colours, textures, patterns, visual suitability to intended function." (3) Finally, economic criteria should be considered such as cost of application including material, cost of maintenance, cleaning, repairing and future replacement.

After evaluating the above mentioned criteria, designers make some drawings to help them decide how to use ceramics in a particular space. Since dimensions of tiles are often not suitable for the dimensions of the interior, it is necessary to reflect design elements such as dimensional proportions on design in a controlled way with the help of drawings made to ensure visual unity (Figure 1).

For instance, when it is necessary to cut a tile because of dimensional differences of space, the designer might prefer to place it in a section that will not be seen - to hide it. In addition, the alignment of joint gap lines on the floor and walls should be displayed and even highlighted in plans and elevations in the drawings made. Craftsmen should be informed about this situation by including these issues in the plan such as the procedures to be followed and necessary warnings regarding the project. In order to complete a design as planned, it is necessary to make colour, texture and material selections as well since perception of space can be achieved as an effect of the colour and texture of the materials selected. Therefore, it is recommended to prepare documentation including technical information about the manufacturers of the materials, production codes, colours and application procedures (Figure 2).

The basic principle of the attempts focusing on practical issues is to define the data regarding the application of ceramic tile and to apply the design without changing its visual aspects. Such drawings are like road maps that involve detailed information about the application. From this perspective, it can be concluded that ceramic tile applications in interiors are mostly industrial and related to the practical use of spaces.

Ceramic as an Aesthetic Element in Interiors

When ceramic is used as a material in a space, it has an effect similar to the ground of a painting. The essence of any painting is 'form or figure' we see on the ground. Therefore, when ceramic is used as an aesthetic object in a space, it functions just like 'form or figure' in a painting. In short, it is the work of art used that reflects the quality of an interior space and adds to its value.

Ceramic art is often used for the purposes of fulfilling symbolic and aesthetical functions in interiors. Designers might prefer to use works of art to increase the moral value of an interior. In this respect, paintings, photographs, ceramics and statues used add meaning and value to the space rather than simply functioning as ornamentation. Therefore,

it is the designer's responsibility to plan where and how to use art objects in interiors and to suggest alternative design plans accordingly starting from the earlier phases of the design process.

An artist often collects information about the function, concept and atmosphere of the space for which he will create works of art. In other words, he starts to create his work even in this early phase. It is also true, however, that all phases of creating a work of art from draft drawings to production are affected by the principles and working routines of the artist (Figure 3-4).

Another significant issue to be considered is how the work will be displayed in the space. Especially in built-in applications, the installation of the work, materials used and their quality should be taken into consideration. An artist should be able to make arrangements appropriate for fixing details of the work since any work of art is perceived and evaluated in reference to its immediate environment as well as its own artistic value. An inappropriate design or an unsuitable detail might result in an unfavourable perception.

Faraway by Semih Kaplan

Such an application was realised by Associate Professor Semih Kaplan, the head of the Basic Education Department of Anadolu University Fine Arts Faculty for the building used by the Embassy of the Turkish Republic in Berlin and built by the Nickol-Schmidt-Hilling architecture office. It is commonly agreed that it is one of the most impressive 10 modern buildings of Berlin. The 200 x 600 cm stone-paste (fritware) tile wall panel called Faraway was specially made for this building. Authorities from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from the Embassy and the artist met many times to share their ideas regarding the work in terms of its location, installation and design principles. After these meetings, the artist finalised his sketches displaying the work and the surface where it would be installed. The application was carefully examined and checked by the authorities because of its importance and the function of this building.

As for the stone-paste tile technique adopted in the work, Kaplan decided to use 25 x 25 cm tiles and each tile was carefully measured, designed and shaped by hand (Figure 3-4). Where the place the work of art will be displayed is concerned, the selection of tile has a special role since tile is a type of ceramic that has a significant place in Turkish ceramics history. The history of tile dates back to 15th century in Turkey. It is commonly agreed that the golden age of this art involves the applications in Iznik in the 16th century. Designs of that period were named according to the patterns (motifs) used in traditional tiles: "Chintamani (spotted and wavy); Pene Shemse (15th century twisted tree branch motif with blue-white flowers on it), Pene Rumi (16th century blue, white, green turquoise and coralline bulge under the glaze; Tulip (naturalist flower, leaf, tulip, hyacinth, clove, rose and pomegranate flower motifs on a white ground)." (5) It is a world famous ceramic application, which has been exhibited in many museums worldwide.

Since this stone-paste tile installation is composed of tiles, the design, shaping and completion of the work is like making a puzzle, which requires effective planning and coordination. In order to complete the design accurately, Kaplan used a technique in which he planned each tile separately and numbered them accordingly (Figure 5). This planning was used as a road map guiding the artist to apply the design without distorting the unity of the work, which was composed of many shapes/patterns. It is a simple but effective method that provides a sort of communication between the artist and craftsman.

Prior to the stone-paste tile panel installation phase, the surface was cleaned and levelled by applying a thin layer of gypsum plaster. An accurately levelled surface is a crucial application phase since the panel formed by a series of tiles should form a smooth and flat surface. If such an accurate levelling is not achieved, there might be small protrusions on the panel. Since this might cause light to be reflected at different angles, it may prevent the work from being perceived effectively.

It was also necessary to install the panel at an appropriate height so that there would not be an optical illusion and an accurate perception would be achieved. The reference height taken for the installation was 160 cm, which is commonly accepted as 'eye level' for human beings anthropometrically. The joint gap, which was on the horizontal axis of the ceramic panel, was aligned to achieve this height and tile installation was completed by applying a thin layer of adhesive on the levelled wall surface. Thin-set mortar is the cement or bonding agent used to attach the tile to the wall surface (Figure 6-7). As a result, an ergonomically most comfortable perception was achieved.

Designed and installed by Semih Kaplan, this work of art is significant not only in terms of its application but also for its quality and the aesthetic value it adds to the interior. This tile technique has been used in Anatolia since early times and is being reflected in today's ceramic art through a modern approach and the touch of artists. This new visual concept used in this work of art reflected the modernity of ceramic art thanks to a touch of traditions so that the outcome was in harmony with the modern look of the building. Moreover, it is displayed in an embassy which is considered the face of a country abroad and functions as a culture centre in a different country. Therefore, the cultural background of Turkey and its current art mentality were shared with the citizens of a friendly and allied country (Figure 8).

The ceramics used in interiors have practical functions as a material, especially in walking areas. In such installations, however, ceramic is an important value in interiors when we look from an aesthetic perspective. In addition, they send messages at a global level through symbolic representations reflecting cultural and artistic identity of a country.

Finally, ceramic is not only a decoration or ornamentation element in a particular space but also an element defining the interior and the user as well as reflecting a cultural and aesthetic taste. This approach is successful in realising a multi-purpose function which combines space perception with art and adds value to the user through its messages.


(1.) Binggeli, C (2008) Materials for Interior Environment. US: John Wiley & Sons.

(2.) Ballast, D K (1992) Interior Design Reference Manual. US: Professional Publication Inc.

(3.) Pile, F J (1995) Interior Design. New York: Harry N Abrams Inc. 2nd Ed.

(4.) Knackstedt, M V (1992) The Interior Design Business Handbook. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.


B Burak Kaptan graduated from the Department of Interior Architecture and Environmental Design at Bilkent University in Turkey. After national and international experiences, in 1994, he began his study in the Department of Interior Architecture, Anadolu University. He has participated in many exhibitions and design projects. He is continuing his studies as associate professor.
COPYRIGHT 2015 Ceramic Art
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2021 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Kaptan, B. Burak
Publication:Ceramics Technical
Date:Nov 1, 2015
Previous Article:Werner Gnegel's Aesthetic Crystal: Chen Jian does a brief analysis of crystalline glaze.
Next Article:Another choice in feldspars: Jeff Zamek provides the results of comparative tests of potash feldspars.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |