The assignment proposed a new accommodation for the Dutch Brick Centre in a former industrial area in Amsterdam North facing the river IJ. It is a multi-tenant building that accommodates the Royal Dutch Society of Brick Manufactures and the new European Ceramic Work Centre.
The students were asked to explore the architectural possibilities of brick facades that are, in contrast to today’s conventional cavity wall constructions, technically self-supporting. This construction method forms a possible answer to the challenges of the ever-increasing insulation demands.
The studio offered an introduction to the material brick and tectonic thinking by means of theoretical reflection, analysis of reference projects, and practical hands-on exercises. Tectonics here is understood as the conscious integration of technique and art, construction and beauty, making and appearance. Students were invited to relate to one of the tectonic traditions and develop their own architecture out of it.
Neither the material brick, nor the aspect of the self-supporting façade, seem to have been a limitation. Instead both seemed to have a liberating effect offering the freedom of in-depth exploration and continued focus, while tectonic thinking offered a reflective framework.
The student work convincingly shows that the material brick and tectonic thinking can foster a wide variety of design positions, open for contemporary interpretation. Brick, a material with a century old tradition, and tectonic thinking still appear to be current and vibrant today.