Vertex Pharmaceuticals headquarters lobby.
Artaic Vertex Pharmaceuticals headquarters lobby.

ARCHITECT’s R+D Awards program celebrates innovation in architecture and design. Learn more about the competition and enter today. This piece is part of a series of articles that will examine the progress made by past award winners.

Three years ago, Artaic entered ARCHITECT's R+D Awards with its submission, Innovative Mosaics, which uses robotics to significantly reduce the amount of time and labor required to assemble individual mosaic tiles into custom, large-scale installations. The jury was impressed by the scale and speed at which the studio was able to produce these mosaic creations, with one juror calling the feed system for its tile assembly “a tricky, interesting beast.”

ARCHITECT checked in with Artaic founder and CEO Ted Acworth to see what the company has been up to since its win.

Artaic moves fast. In fact, the Boston-based studio moves so quickly that, in the past three years, it has installed 51,913,792 (and counting) individual glass, porcelain and stone tiles, ranging from 3/8 inch to 1 inch square, and covered nearly 100,000 square feet of walls and floors in colorful mosaics. Artaic has now taken its process to the next level. The studio’s custom robotic technology software, Tessera, is in its 17th generation of development, boasting features like same-day design and completion with a placement speed of 650 milliseconds per tile (formerly 1,100 milliseconds), and an automatic grout color suggestion based on image characteristics.

Besides pioneering mosaic design software tools—which it does with support from the National Science Foundation—Artaic has also completed exciting design projects for clients such as the Walt Disney Co., Bloomingdale's, and MGM Resorts International, as well collaborated with firms like Perkins+Will, Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Gensler. One project, which ended up winning the 2015 Coverings Installation and Design Award for Commercial Tile Design, was Artaic’s work with biotech company Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Vertex wanted two mosaic murals in its lobby for its new headquarters in Boston, designed by Tsoi/Kobus & Associates and Elkus Manfredi Architects. Artaic immortalized the company’s groundbreaking formula for the treatment of cystic fibrosis onto two feature walls.

In 2013, the studio also launched Design ‘N Gather, an annual mosaic design competition that invites designers of all kinds to create mosaic works of art. Winning designs have been installed at a restaurant and startup accelerator in Boston. This year, the top submissions will be displayed at the HD Expo in Las Vegas.

MIT Koch Center Public Gallery.
Artaic MIT Koch Center Public Gallery.

Showcasing the expediency of Artaic's process, Acworth recounted a recent project with MIT. He had received a call from Biber Architects principal James Biber, FAIA, regarding a new MIT building in New York. “The grand opening was roughly a month away and the flooring manufacturer had pulled out," he says. "They needed a custom mosaic of a map of the MIT campus designed, fabricated and installed in less than 30 days. [Biber] flew up to Boston the next morning, which resulted in the project [starting] that afternoon. We made the deadline and, just as important, [we created] a beautiful one-of-a-kind mosaic mural.”

There are no signs of slowing down for this tech-savvy studio, which is currently working on a brand new mosaic design software intended specifically for the classic mosaic Opus Vermiculatum style.

Watch Artaic create a project below.