IX - X 2007
Exposed Brick. Ceramic has endured as an essential building element over the course of the 20th century, gradually leaving behind its traditional roles as load-bearing wall to take on firstly those of enclosure and protagonize those of cladding and finish in the present day. The application of the latest technologies to this material enhances its qualities – lightness and resistance –, and gives the green light to new uses. Three experts analyze and illustrate with different works (including some of their own) the monumental past, the vigorous present and the optimistic future of this ecumenical material.
José Ignacio Linazasoro
Versatile Material. In an itinerary that goes from the sacred to the pro-fane, from the worship of ruins to the contemporary mystic of consumerism, the six works selected here show the adaptability of brick to a wide variety of contexts. It is used in the diocesan museum of the Rhenish city to set up a dia-logue between the new architecture and the old walls; in a multipurpose pavilion in northern Portugal to shape the building’s bold masses; in a residence for the mentally disabled in Zamora to wrap up its volumes entirely; in a series of prismatic apartment blocks in Holland to evoke an old factory; in a winery complex in Switzerland to reproduce on its facade clusters of grapes; and in a large shopping center in the Asian area of the Turkish capital to blend vegetal landscape with ceramic landscape.
| Cover Story
|Views and Reviews
Strong France. While Jean Nouvel receives the Pritzker Prize for a professional career that goes beyond the boundaries of his country, Dominique Perrault is the object of a retrospective exhibition in Paris’s Centre Pompidou.
|Art / Culture
|Emerging Worlds. The winners of the latest edition of the Aga Khan Awards are committed to sustainability; in South Africa, the spatial legacy of the apartheid is still present: three museums explain the country’s ominous past.|| Mohsen Mostafavi
Memory of Segregation
|Utopias Examined. Forty years after the events of May 1968, the current globalization and ecological crisis demand the prevailance of the architectures of necessity over the architectures of desire.||Focho’s Cartoon
Madrid, More Museums. The capital’s ‘art walk’ has been completed along the Paseo del Prado with two new brick pieces: the CaixaForum building, which transforms the old power station across from the Botanical Gardens into a social and arts center; and the extension of the Prado Museum, which brings the Renaissance cloister of the Jerónimos church into its exhibition spaces.
|Technique / Style
Herzog & de Meuron
|To close, brick is one of the most deeply rooted materials in the Spanish architectural tradition: it has configured the texture of our cities from the Roman and Islamic structures up to the rationalism of the beginning of the 20th century. The combination of the historical heritage with the modern lessons guarantees its survival in contemporary works.||Products
Fire and geometry humanize mud. In the Genesis, the warm divine breath awakens lifeless matter; in the oven, burning air endows formless matter with its final shape. Biblical or ceramic, the transit from raw to fired clay is a civilizing threshold that blows life in through heat and form; after all, fire and order are sure signs of human habitation. To that mythical and archaic gravitas, brick adds its anthropological dimension: “handy-sized unit of building material”. The old manuals’ definition refers to the size of the handling body, and this ergonomic mention of the builder humanizes a geometric universe modulated at the service of assemblies and joints: the brick length with which we still measure the thickness of facades is a bright residue of a world that was measured with handspans and cubits because it was built with arms and with hands.
This anthropic brick is also the prismatic cell of the ceramic works, and the dimensional control of its fabric the proof of the rigor of its project. From walls to roofs or pavements, the exact grids of bricks, slabs and tiles have been the litmus paper of the wet construction that hoped for the precision of dry joinery, reconciling the tactile seduction of baked earth with the intellectual pleasures of visual order. In spite of this effort to attain aesthetic and technical redemption, ceramic construction suffered the indifference of doctrinarian modernity, and such refined elements as the lightened brick – which in combination with the half-joist produced floor slabs of great economy and easy construction – or the Arab tile – shaped on the craftsman’s thigh, and versatile in its overlapping geometry of valley and cover tiles – became icons of backwardness.