Every year, Ceramics of Italy hosts a Tile Competition, which recognizes North American architects and designers who have showcased Italian tile in their projects. The annual awards program, sponsored by Confindustria Ceramica (the Italian Association of Ceramics) and the Italian Trade Commission, is the longest-running awards program of its kind. Architects and designers are given the opportunity to submit a project of their choice in one of three categories — Residential, Commercial or Institutional — to be judged by a panel of international judges. In addition to a $4,000 cash prize, the winner of each category receives a complimentary trip to Cersaie, the world’s largest exhibition of ceramic tileand bathroom furnishings, taking place this year from September 22-26, 2014. All of the winning projects were chosen for their innovative use of Italian tile, quality of installation, overall design excellence and sustainability.

This year’s Institutional winner was Mitchell and Hilarie Morgan Hall at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. The project was designed by MGA Partners in Philadelphia, PA, and was identified as one of the “key projects” in Temple University’s Masterplan. “Mitchell and Hilarie Morgan Hall contributes to transforming the University into a community-engaged, pedestrian-oriented, academic and cultural destination in Philadelphia,” said Christine Marsal, Partner at MGA. “The project encompasses a full city block on the southern edge of Temple’s campus and is both the announcement of the institution along the approach from Center City, and the culmination of the pedestrian spine, Liacouras Walk, which runs through campus.”

Mitchell and Hilarie Morgan Hall — the largest of Temple University’s 10 dorms — is a mixed-use residential, retail and dining facility, which is home to 1,275 undergraduate students, including freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Located on the corner of Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, steps from the Broad Street subway line, the site contains three buildings — Morgan Hall North, Morgan Hall South and the dining building — surrounding a large terrace. Collectively, the buildings take up 637,000 square feet of space.

“In an effort to provide an appropriate balance of university and community spaces, the vision for the project began by lining the site with residential and commercial structures, opening up a raised terrace at the core, which becomes the communal yard for the students housed within,” said Daniel Kelley FAIA, Design Partner at MGA. “The complex consists of two primary residential buildings, a slim tower to the north [Morgan Hall North], the landmark in the skyline, and an L-shaped mid-rise at the east and south [Morgan Hall South]. Along the Broad Street corridor is a 50,000-square-foot retail and dining pavilion, serving both the student population and surrounding community. Together, these buildings form the walls of the new urban yard.


Mitchell and Hilarie Morgan Hall at Temple University

Philadelphia, PA

Architect:MGA Partners, Philadelphia, PA

Construction Manager:L.F. Driscoll Co., Bala Cynwyd, PA

Owner’s Representative:Aegis Property Group, Philadelphia, PA

Associate Architect:PZS Architects, Philadelphia, PA

Landscape Architect:OLIN Studio, Philadelphia, PA

Tile Installer:Belfi Bros. & Co., Inc., Philadelphia, PA

Tile Manufacturer:Mirage, Dallas, TX; StonePeak, Chicago, IL

Tile Distributors:Daltile, Dallas, TX; High Style Stone & Tile, Brooklyn, NY;
Mohawk Tile & Marble, King of Prussia, PA; American Olean, Dallas, TX

“The student residences are configured in suites, creating vertical neighborhoods of 60 students that will facilitate strong bonds of community within the larger complex,” Marsal went on to say. “The neighborhoods share double-height lounges, which are articulated as glass volumes at the corners of the residential buildings, expressing the student life to the neighborhood beyond.”

Since so much is going on inside of the facility, in regard to the design and layout, careful attention was paid to the outdoor terrace area. “The terrace forms a central communal space for students and visitors alike, accessible from the street level at the northeastern and southwestern corners of the site,” said Marsal. “The terrace paving is punctuated by an assortment of lawn, trees and planting beds. This mix of soft and hard spaces throughout [the terrace] delineates unique outdoor ‘rooms,’ which clarify circulation through the plaza and accommodate an array of activities, from quiet study sessions to large programmed events.”

During the design phase of the project, MGA held weekly design sessions, which included Temple University’s input, as well as the various engineers involved with the project. A total of 108,000 square feet of porcelain tile was utilized for the project, including bathroom flooring and wainscots for the student suites and public restrooms, wall coverings and flooring for the dining building’s café and commercial kitchen, flooring for the faculty/staff apartments, and finishes for exterior columns.

In the student residences bathrooms, a combined total of 77,000 square feet of tile was used; Daltile’s Keystones Mosaic Colorbody Porcelain was employed on the floor, while Daltile’s Permatones Mosaic Glazed Porcelain was used on the walls. For the dining building’s café and commercial kitchen, a combined total of 10,600 square feet of tile was used, with 9,100 square feet of Daltile’s Quarry Textures employed on the floor and 1,500 square feet of Mirage’s “Freestyle” decorative wall tile collection – in colors “Wasabi,” with a mix of matte and polished finishes; “Jade White,” with a matte finish; and “Satsuma,” with a matte finish — running in a bond pattern, oriented vertically on the walls. In the public bathrooms, a combined total of 10,000 square feet of tile was used; American Olean’s Unglazed Colorbody porcelain mosaic tile was employed on the floor, while Daltile’s Rittenhouse Square glazed tile was used on the walls. On the faculty/staff apartment floors and the exterior columns, a combined total of 4,000 square feet of tile was utilized for each. For the faculty/staff apartment floors, 4,000 square feet of porcelain tile from StonePeak was used. For the exterior columns, Daltile’s Keystones mosaic unglazed tile was used in 1- x 2-inch format, in brick joint pattern, oriented vertically.

When deciding on which particular types of tile to use for the project, many different factors were taken into consideration. “Because of the huge quantity of bathrooms, [our] primary considerations were durability and cost effectiveness,” said Marsal. “For the exterior columns, we looked at other tile products but selected the Daltile [product] because it was rated for exterior application, and because the 1- x 2-inch dimension worked well around round columns and provided the desired texture and pattern at different scales and viewing distances. For the decorative wall tiles at the dining building, we considered other large-format, colorful tiles, especially from other Italian manufacturers. We chose the Mirage Freestyle collection because we liked the "Wasabi" color and the ability to mix both matte and polished finishes.”

Mirage’s Freestyle collection also contributed to the building’s overall sustainability, since the tiles don’t emit any VOC’s, joining the impressive list of measures taken to make Morgan Hall green, including diverting 95% of construction waste from landfills.

To complete the extensive tile installation, James Ingram, project manager and vice president of Belfi Bros. in Philadelphia, PA, said he and his crew utilized a wide range of products, including Mapei’s Keracolor™ S and Keracolor™ U grouts, Custom Building Products’ VersaBond® and ProLite® setting materials, Custom Building Products’ RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane, Schluter’s Kerdi Crack Suppression Membrane, Schluter’s Transition Strips and Aqua Mix® Sealer’s Choice®. “Over the course of this project, we utilized up to 26 men through the various stages, 13 of which were installers and the other 13 of which were finishers,” he said.

“Morgan Hall was comprised of three primary areas — the tower, the midrise and the amenities — and we had tile scheduled to be installed throughout each of these areas,” Ingram went on to say. “Going into a project of this size, some of my biggest concerns were coordination and communication. These are two of the most critical aspects that go into making a project successful. Our tile installation was not overly complicated, but it certainly was plentiful. Fortunately, through all the hard work and the efforts of L.F. Driscoll’s personnel, and all of the other trades working on the job, those concerns quickly diminished. We were able to navigate our way through this installation without any major issues or delays making for a very productive and positive job.”

Mitchell and Hilarie Morgan Hall took almost two years to complete, with MGA onsite supervising the installation several times each week throughout the project’s duration. “We were primarily concerned with the craftsmanship of the installation, straightness and consistency of grout joints, crispness of cuts, and transitions between base and wall tile,” said Marsal.

Since the project’s completion in the summer of 2013, Marsal said the project has received great feedback. “The project has been met with success and appreciation from Temple administration, students in residence and the surrounding community,” she said.