Welcome to CFile’s Year-End Review! We’re revisiting our favorite posts going back to when we first started publishing. They’re arranged in no particular order. We’re not commenting on the quality of what we did (or didn’t) include. Rather, we’re reminiscing about all of the fine things ceramics has given us since our founding in 2013. Think of it as a victory lap after a fantastic couple of years. We may revisit some of these lists in the spring for a special project, so please let us know what you think in the comments.
Brick architecture really grabbed our attention. Here are some of the best since 2013!
Caat had to work within budget constraints and so they selected local brick and concrete for their affordability. Balconies were used to increase the space inside the tiny apartments. Large windows let in more light. A portion of each terrace is covered by the brick modules for privacy reasons.
mages surfaced last week of Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron’s proposal for a £500 million Chelsea football stadium. The design of the 60,000 capacity building references Westminster Abbey and its gothic look is supported by faux-vintage renderings of how the stadium will appear once its finished. The architects couple this vision with rhetoric, stating that the new Chelsea stadium is “beyond beauty or ugliness.” In an interview with The Guardian they compared the design to a medieval walled city, which is fine, because the stadium looks like it could host bloodsports as easily as soccer. One gets the sense that it could be shelled by tanks and remain standing.
Architect Frank Gehry has reached an enviable place in his career. After 53 years in the business, Gehry has the experience and clout to manifest his experimental ideas of giving buildings a sense of movement. His plastic sense of form has changed architecture for all time. And to his detractors (pop music stars and tweens would call them “haters”), Gehry responds by literally giving them the middle finger and moving on.
Firm aterlier100s+1 are architects who founded their company in 2001 in Beijing, China. In 2013 they completed a massive brick building with a mountainous shape that utilizes courtyards and empty space in its design. In English the designers titled the building, “Guidian International Exchange Center.”
As much as a fan as I am of Moneo’s talent, this building was a new discovery. Moneo was commissioned in 1979, as part of the Spanish government’s celebration of the bimillennial anniversary of the founding of Emerita, Augusta. It replaced an 1838 museum on the same site, built in the middle of one of the largest and best preserved Roman cities in Western Europe, immediately next to one of the most spectacular surviving ancient theaters in the world. The museum opened in 1986 to critical acclaim.
The idea of “monument” is expressed, in one way, on the facade of the building. The designers used polychrome brick to create portraits of nameless Milan residents. These portraits appear most solid at a distance, but become more abstract the closer one gets to the building, the deeper one tries to observe them.
Last year they completed a project with the Sala Resort group in Pratu Chai, Ayutthaya for a luxury hotel with curving brick walls rising high over tight, narrow corridors. They create a feeling of the immense when one walks through them, leaving only a view of the sky and of an ornate door the studio designed. Step decks for lounging along the waterfront serve another function that is both picturesque and practical: they are meant to flood when the Chao Phraya River rises.
Ceramics and brick work together to imbue a Barcelona restaurant with a sense of the Mediterranean. The Disfrutar Restaurant was completed in December 2014, a project by the El Equipo Creativo, a Barcelona firm founded in 2010 by Oliver Franz Schmidt and Natali Canas del Pozo. The architects state that they “share the idea that space, the same as food, tells stories, and creates sensations and experiences.”
Admun Design and Construction Studio in 2015 set out to create a space of light and warmth in what they described as a “harsh industrial setting” in Tehran. To create such a space, the architects turned to apertures, brick and steel. The building consists of offices, residential units, showrooms and locker rooms and it spreads light to the surrounding neighborhood at night.
Our first thought when we saw “Cubo House” was that the home ascended into our reality from a Minecraft game. Its blocky facade is whole and yet the arrangement of bricks causes our eyes to stumble all over it. It’s strange; the building demands work to observe and yet we can’t look away. It appears as though an existing structure was carved up and rearranged on a computer. We’re not far off the mark. The existing materials were salvaged from the facade and given a good spin before they were re-applied.
Architect Camillo Botticini founded his firm in Brescia, Italy in 1993. The firm states that its benchmark for architectural projects is “the complexity of a fragmented and versatile world.” Botticini’s projects attempt to articulate this world in relation to specific subjects and contexts. The firm states that the starting point for each project is its “preliminary conceptual content.” In the case of the firm’s 2013 swimming center in Brescia, Italy, that concept was a pool articulated by black brick.
ZLGdesign were pretty open about all of the challenges they faced in their redesign of The Lantern Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The firm was dogged with a tiny budget, problems with the permitting authorities and a demand from the client that they squeeze as many rooms as possible into the hotel. The building is located in a section of the city that lost most of its historical heritage to modernization, so ZLG had to design a building in which “guests would feel good and respond to [what remained of] the surrounding history of Petaling Street in the most sensitive and empathic way possible.”
Firm Buzzi Architetti completed work this year on a residential and commercial development in Solduno, Switzerland. The complex’s standout feature is a brick skin that wraps around the main volume of the building, undulating as it goes.
“The green facade of the house is a ‘living facade’, changing the image of the building over time and giving space to birds and insects, creating a new urban ecosystem. The house uses large windows to capture sunlight to heat up the collective spaces in winter, and uses the ‘natural curtain’ to create shading in summer… This house shows that comfort, beauty and sustainability can strengthen each other, promoting eco-effectivity more than eco-efficiency. Because of this, the house received a special subsidy given to sustainable buildings in the Netherlands and was nominated for the Dutch Facade Design Award 2008.”
“Large stretches of the building’s facade are composed of fragments of various sizes, shapes and materials,” McGetrick writes, “and after a brief appraisal, the architect began to annotate. He pointed to a grey brick about 20 centimeters wide. ‘This one was produced over 400 years ago – that’s the Ming Dynasty. That is a very standard size. This one is from the Qing Dynasty. Some people have found older ones. The oldest one is from the Tang Dynasty – that’s 1,500 years ago.’”
RUF was founded in 2006 and has since addressed both depopulated cities as well as urban sprawl. The studio has completed 18 projects across China, often involving locals in the design process. They’ve built projects including schools, bridges and housing. One of their largest projects was to rebuild an entire village following a disaster. A school the firm completed in Mulan, Guangdong included classrooms, a playground, and a restroom building that was clad in reflective tiles and had a bioremediation system to treat sewage. RUF frequently includes infrastructure in addition to the buildings. A housing project the firm built included systems for rainwater collection and a biogas power generator.
While not technically brick, Kengo Kuma’s Folk Art Village fits in style. He states:
“The structures were designed with cross-sections that blend in with the mountain slope to instead of grading it, with the respective display spaces seamlessly being revealed as you go through the museum.
“Roof tiles used to cover old homes in the area were gathered, and these and various other locally available materials with rich textures such as cedar were used inside. The group of small roofs that were made using these tiles give the museum the appearance of a village.”
One of the worst disasters in recent memory for the region, the earthquake that struck Nepal in April killed more than 9,000 people and injured about 23,000. That disaster is still being felt today; hundreds of thousands of people were left without homes. A Pritzker Prize-winning architect is stepping up again to help people who were displaced from their homes.
Love brick architecture? Let us know in the comments.