This article appeared in Architectural West magazine September/October 2009.

The Clay Roof Tile Dome
Perfection at Pelican Hill in Southern California
by Lyla Lawry, marketing coordinator, MCA

A prominent architectural feature of Ancient Rome, revived during the Italian Renaissance, the dome roof has been reborn on the Newport Coast in Southern California. The Resort at Pelican Hill, perched on 504 acres of sundrenched hillsides, is set at one of the finest areas for a perfect wedding. Offering views of the Pacific from nearly every vantage point, a perfect location would call for something magnificent… a perfect Wedding Rotunda. Only the elegance of clay tile for The Clay Roof Tile Dome Perfection at Pelican Hill in Southern California by Lyla Lawry, marketing coordinator, MCA the dome would do. Great in concept but difficult in application, the new-generation clay tile dome roof on the Wedding Rotunda would require innovation, invention, determination, and skilled workmanship. The Romans first realized the architectural potential of the dome, and this culminated in the Pantheon, built in about A.D. 112. During the Renaissance, the dome heavily influenced classical designs and became a prominent feature in Roman and Tuscan architecture. In the 21st century, architects, builders, and designers, still covet the impressive and superb beauty of a dome roof or rotunda. But until recently, choices of roofing materials for domes were very limited. Most often, only metal domes were available. The timeless elegance and Old World appeal of a clay tile roof seemed out of reach for the rounded curves of a large dome roof. Not many manufacturers of such dome tile existed.

Andrew Skurman Architects, San Francisco, Calif., and Brad Engelland, vice president Residential Architecture, Commercial Property Development, The Irvine Company, made inquiries to MCA Clay Roof Tile, based in Corona, California. MCA responded immediately with enthusiasm about the venture and were eager to take on the challenge.

MCA had never made a tile for installation on a dome roof, yet its people expressed confidence that it could be done and were anxious to get started. Dome tile is difficult to measure for the exposure of each course. Every inch the courses go up, the circumference changes, so the exposure changes. So, without cutting any tile, fitting the tile to the dome shape was very challenging. It was a process of trial and error, experimenting with different shapes and sizes to find the perfect fit. But, drawing on their experience and craftsmanship, MCA was able to establish a mathematical formula, using their patented Turret Tile® concept, to create an extraordinary Fish Scale Dome Turret Tile. MCA presented their newest product on a model that was built at the MCA plant, and the Wedding Rotunda began to become a reality.

The tile color specified by designer Celia Conover of Conover, a design studio located in San Diego, Calif., also presented a challenge: a semi-gloss in several shades of brown, each tone slightly different from the ARCHITECTURAL WEST – SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2009 15 next. It is very difficult to make slight color changes in over 4,000 pieces of tile. Experienced in making glazes of all types and colors, MCA was able to meet the specifications. In a location that averages 340 days of sunshine every year, the Wedding Rotunda needed a special gloss that would do justice to the sunny skies and panoramic view. MCA created a custom semi-gloss finish in several shades of brown to produce a romantic and awe-inspiring clay tile dome that supremely catches the light.

Cuesta Construction, located in Costa Mesa, Calif., chose Mesa Roofing, Anaheim, Calif., because of its experience and masterful workmanship. “The talents and skills of Dirk Cannizzaro and Dick Townsend of Mesa Roofing were instrumental in the execution of this prestigious project. Their cooperation and feedback on the project were crucial in developing a product that was not only consistently high in quality, but also straightforward in installation,” notes Bob Hale, sales manager, MCA. “MCA has developed a clay dome tile that is custom-made for each job and comes with job-specific instructions. And, with over 50 colors of clay dome tile available, the appeal of clay tile domes is rapidly expanding.”

Posing quite an architectural challenge in the beginning, the end product was certainly worth the effort. A modern day work of art, the Wedding Rotunda at Pelican Hill is quickly becoming a Southern California landmark.