The use of Terracotta louver
as a building material
flourished from 1880 through the 1930s
In the latter half of the 19th century, catastrophic fires in many American cities coincided with technological developments to propel the once niche use of baked earth into mainstream urban design. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, it was found that many cast iron structural supports failed in the brutal heat of fire, while stone and brick components often cracked. In response, engineers made a concerted effort to develop more fire-resistant materials to protect structural components and maintain the façade's integrity. In the search for something stronger, Terracotta louver
turned out to be flame resistant and adequately protect structural metal beams and other vulnerable areas.
With high-rise architecture, skyscrapers and steel-framed buildings came a higher demand for resilient exterior materials
that were also light and customizable. Designers wanted to find a more productive way to make architectural ornaments, too, rather than continue with traditional stone carving techniques. Terracotta louver
pieces could be made hollow, sculpted to custom specifications and be assembled much more easily, and the use of Terracotta louver
as a building material flourished from 1880 through the 1930s.