Color photograph of an olive skinned man wearing a collared shirt and dark blazer looking at the camera with a serious expression

Ajay Manthripragada

Lily Auchincloss Rome Prize
September 1, 2023–July 5, 2024
Design Critic, Department of Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Project title
Imbrex and Tegula
Project description

The roofs of Rome are blanketed by terra cotta tiles formed into two interconnecting shapes: the imbrex (a hollow half-cylinder) and the tegula (flat with raised edges). They work together in overlap to create an impervious roofing assembly, versions of which are seen the world over. This project views the imbrex and tegula type as a means for understanding the interplay of environment, craft, and geopolitics in building materials. My work in Rome will forge a dialogue, through protoarchitectural constructions and drawings, between ancient and new applications of terra cotta. Drawing on my experience with ceramics in architecture, I will enact a process that relies on reciprocity between archaeological documentation and design experimentation. Access to sites of extraction, spaces of manufacture, and local knowledge in Italy will enable comparison with those of India’s Malabar Coast: the former world center of terra cotta production and the focus of my ongoing research. This parallel suggests a noncentric positioning of Rome’s influence—as one node in a global network of exchange.