brick as uncommon material

Posted in building by tot on April 13, 2008

Swiss Brick Award 08 exhibition will be held at Swiss Federal Institute of Technologies Zurich (ETHZ).

In Switzerland, brick is no indigenous material. So it first seems strange to me that European Brick Award offer prizes mostly to Swiss architects. Founded by world largest brick producer Wienerberger AG based in Vienna, it honors brick architecture every second years since 2004. This year, Most of the awarded architects are Swiss.
KOLUMBA , the prize winner project locates in Cologne and its architect is Swiss master architect, Peter Zumthor.

He is thought to be an architect who treat building material sensitively appreciating local material, and known swiss contemporary architects tend to have similar attitude. But if brick is not that indigenous material and architects try to use it, is it right attitude for regionalism-architects?

KOLUMBA is not the case because in Cologne, I mean, in Nortrein West Falen, brick has been always important material from small house to heavy industrial buildings. Zumthor must have respected the works of Dominikus Boehm, Rudolf Shwartz, or Heinz Bienefeld, who designed numbers of brick buildings there.

But I mention some stuff in Switzerland whose works are thought to be fit to the locus. Since Modernism, architects as a designer has tried to distinguish their works from ordinary buildings in appearance. And critical- regionalism still leave this architects’ desire with its awareness to be local. When the vernacular architecture is alive, it works well, but if not, it become cheesy simulacrum. I don’t know for sure how much extent local construction in switzerland exist, but some B√ľndner architects works look just as if it wears region-friendly material with modern structure in it.

I don’t accuse it but I think we should be conscious on it after the age of simulacra.

One of Sejima from SANAA’s recent projects shows pinky brick appearance. And this is actually thin brick tile which is often used for built-for-sale houses in Japan although Sejima’s tiles looks smart with the selection of color in tiles and joints. We know it superficial, but people never see for example the famous spa in Vals in the same way only because the were told the stone is its origin, although they haven’t seen local buildings made with it or natural stones treated rather unnatural way.

Again, I don’t deny critical regionalism architecture. I just feel sometimes those works are naively defined as such.

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