From vibrant burnt orange, tangerine gold or orange-tinged brown, to neutrals of sandstone or sienna red - terracottas evoke an old-world charm.
Full of earthy energy, this prehistoric component creates a certain warmth and sense of aristocracy, and enhances even the coldest of colour themes.
And maybe that is the reason why terracotta murals or terracotta themes remain classic pieces in architecture.
Terracottas continue to remain an important part of our modern architecture and you will find them at the Bangladesh Television (BTV) Bhaban, Bangladesh Army Headquarters Building, Ittefaq Building, Arab-Bangladesh Bank, BCIC Building, Sonargaon Hotel, Grameen Bank, Safura Tower, Bangladesh Military Academy, Bangla Academy, Bangladesh Military Museum, the US Embassy and British High Commission in Dhaka, Youngone Corporation (EPZ Dhaka and Chattogram), and the Muktijoddha Memorial (Rangpur).
Creating murals with traditional Bengali folk symbols and the Liberation War as a subject matter has always been popular.
In this cosmopolitan city, a terracotta mural indoors, or on an outside wall, reminds us of our roots.
That is why residents want to incorporate this earthy touch in their residence, rooftops, offices or even in hotels.
Interior designers are increasingly opting for terracotta murals as they are sustainable, locally sourced and the workers can be found in the 'paal paras' (potter village).
"The terracotta mural or plaque is so versatile that it can easily fit into our post-modernist architecture, both indoor and outdoor. And if maintained properly, it can sustain for hundreds of years," said Dr Azharul Islam Sheikh Chanchal, former chairman and professor at the department of ceramics of FFA, University of Dhaka.
The 'chemistry' of terracotta murals
Terracotta is made of clay, but the chemical components play an interesting role.
Soil has iron oxide, aluminium, silica, volclay etc and their composition defines the colour and texture of the mural.
The quality depends on how smartly the components are mixed in the soil.
Generally, 'etel' and 'do-ansh' soil in a specific ratio is used here in our country.
"You see, brick is also a kind of terracotta as the word means baked earth/soil. But the basic difference is in the chemical component and the temperature it is baked at," says Professor Chanchal.
Terracotta murals need to be baked at around 900 to 1,000 degrees celsius to make them strong and sustainable.
Professor Chanchal explained the creative process of making an entire mural. "It takes one and a half months minimum for an average-sized mural to be completed. After the soil is collected and the design is finalised, the modelling frame is prepared."
The perfectly mixed and prepared soil is then mounted on the frame and the design is carved on it.
The finished blocks are then carefully detached from the frame and laid for drying at room temperature. This is the longest part of the process.
Entirely dried up terracotta blocks are then placed in the furnace to be burnt.
The finished products are taken to the site and set on the wall using cement and a percentage of ready-mix (a construction adhesive).
Finally, a coat of sodium silicate is applied to the mural to make it glossy and protect from humidity.
The size of the market
"Huge", as Professor Chanchal said. "The materials used for terracotta murals can be easily sourced locally and for hundreds of years our 'kumars' (potters) have been practising this skill. So it is something we have inherited as Bangalis."
Shilpobari, a Dhaka based interior designing company, creates terracotta murals for their clients.
Alamgir Kabir Evan, the marketing head of Shilpobari said, "Terracotta murals are something our clients feel comfortable incorporating in their lifestyle."
Depending on the design, size and details, terracotta murals can cost Tk1,500 to Tk4,000 per square foot.
As an interior designer, Evan thinks terracotta murals are comparatively cheaper and more sustainable. "Expensive paintings can become damaged, some can even fade over time. But if external harm is avoided, terracotta murals can last for a lifetime."
And they will remain glossy if you coat the surface with sodium silicate every two or three years, Professor Chanchal informed us.
How to incorporate murals indoors and outdoors
Be it for your home, rooftop, restaurant, or hotel - a terracotta mural can be a perfect timeless addition.
In your home, you could install a customised terracotta mural in the foyer or in the garden for creating an authentic ambience. If you want to incorporate a terracotta mural indoors, you can opt for ones with floral patterns, Islamic calligraphy, or even Bengali traditional folk symbols like jute pot hangers, flowers, boats etc. Use floating lights on top of that wall to jazz up that entire design.
When it comes to restaurants or hotels, many owners nowadays want a traditional theme. In that case, a terracotta themed setting would be a perfect fit.
You may decorate your ceiling with terracotta blocks or even a wave of terracotta bells or pots to add a jaw-dropping visual aesthetic to your restaurant's interior. You can opt for an accent wall as well.
But unlike ceramic tiles, terracotta tiles are porous and need to be treated regularly with a sealant to avoid moulds and stains from developing. Sodium Silicate is a sealant that is popular here.
Box 1: History of terracotta murals
Although pit-fired earthenware dates back as early as 29,000–25,000 BC, in architecture, terracotta was initially used in ancient Greek, Babylonian, ancient Egyptian, Roman, Chinese, Indus River Valley and Native American civilisation.
It was used for roof tiles, medallions, statues, capitals, plaques, murals and other small architectural details.
In Bengal, terracotta plaques or small murals for hanging on walls were first found in the Shunga period in the second century BC, almost 5,000 years old.
These were probably the first attempt at architectural ornamentation, and somewhat broke the monotonous linearity of walls.
In every century, this art form came back with a change in design, form and technology.
Creating murals with traditional Bengali folk symbols had always been popular. But in recent years our Liberation War as a subject matter has become popular as well.