☰ Workshops

Tectonics in Building Culture

Brickwork (2008)

Bricks and the Factory Landscape

For the second part of the workshop, we built upon the knowledge made with the bricks and expanded and refined these experiences by connecting them with the site, and by furthering the development of individual tectonics and texture.

The five teams, each consisting of five students, selected as the first step their individual brick from the various bricks available. The choice was based on form, surface and color. Next the students chose a suitable site, focusing on the different heights and colored hills of clay and sand. The students then began to transform the five pallets of bricks into architectural objects and to merge these with the chosen location.

For three days, the students experimented at one edge of the factory site, within a territory of clay hills and a network of transportation paths, emphasizing issues of tectonics, topography, location, texture, light, shadow, color, and construction processes. Over the course of these three days the five brick objects were constantly rebuilt, refined, enlarged and thereby being transformed. This allowed testing ideas, to develop objects and to gain real experience – Baukunst in brick.


The choice of the site, the reaction, the implementation and positioning of the brick object temporarily changed the working processes, views and characteristics of the factory. The resultant objects were vital, varied and exciting.

In the project Two Walls, the construction of two slightly offset walls interrupted the transportation path between the clay store and the factory. In this way, the brick object interrupted the natural flow of the factory vehicles and also functioned as a doorway through which one could access the new space created by the two walls.

By means of the way in which the walls ran alongside each other and along the natural topography of the site, the Carpet project connected two clay hills with the transportation path running between them, making them into a unity. This new space, like a carpet in the landscape, traced the existing surface of the clay hill and focused attention between on two hills in the landscape of the adjoining field.

The Canyon project dug into a clay ridge, thereby creating a connection between the areas in front and behind the clay hill. After the removal of the brick object, the dug-in bricks left a clear impression in the ridge. This was the only brick object to leave behind a trace on the factory site


By putting together individual bricks to create an ensemble, the group Flying Bricks experimented with the extent to which the individual bricks could be thrown. The first student in the human chain picked up a brick and threw it to the next student who threw it to the next, and so on, until the last link in the chain put the brick on the new brick wall. The creation process thereby followed a regular rhythm. A moving brick wall was created, whose dynamic production visibly provided for a great deal of fun and interesting experiences.

The brick object of the Columns group was made of several individual columns, which were built with a simple and classic stretcher course. Through the interaction of the individual columns and their varied colors, this group emphasized the tectonics of the object as a whole. In order to achieve this, each brick was checked for color and then assigned to a column. This gave rise to a colorful and self-contained arrangement of columns, reminded to Per Kirkebys Sculptures.

The tectonics of the pair of walls played an important role in the creation of Two Walls. The most varied combinations were initially tried out in small units and then incorporated into the two walls. This allowed for a continuous refinement of the tectonics and for experimentation with the transition between wall and clay hill. The results were two multi-layered brick walls with surprising and lively tectonic qualities.


The object Carpet made use of the material properties and of bricks, with a horizontal part and a fluid, vertical part. The fluid part along the clay hill was created by making the bricks overhang, and could thus also be used as steps. The resulting pattern of joints gave a lively impression, related to the church cladding of Josef Pecnik in Prague.

The striking texture of Flying Brick was, in contrast, created by the combination of individual bricks. The interaction between open and closed created a spatial pattern, which received an additional depth from the tactile qualities of each brick.

The texture of the two brick walls of the object Two Walls, in contrast, drew its character form the lively joint structure. The joints, some at sitting and some at standing eye level, opened to the top or to the side and closed again. This made one wall appear more transparent and light, and the other appear more closed and opaque. The contrast between closed and open was enhanced by the selection of the bricks, reminiscent of oriental windows. This aspect was also based on the hidden interior space, created by the two walls.

Color and surface only created the texture of the object Columns. The simple stretcher course emphasized the porosity and surface properties of the individual columns and allowed the columns to form a strong ensemble.

With Canyon, the texture was created by movement and time. The work was based on the clay ridge and the brick. The conclusion was the step-like connection through the clay ridge.  The horizontal and vertical organization of the bricks created a path, a line and then, after the removal of the object, a temporary imprint and pattern – another kind of brick texture.

Light and Shadow

The self-contained project Columns used the play of light and shadow to attain a constantly changing vitality. Depending on the sun, the shadows would fall on the columns or create their own structure on the ground and between the columns. This play of light and shadow combined with color and spacing to develop further the pattern of the columns, creating a powerful interaction between light, shadow, color and space. Flying Wall’s play with light and shadow emphasized the fluidity and lively depth of the wall. These resultant light patterns, reflected on the wall and ground as squared areas of light dependent on the tectonics and texture of the wall, further emphasized the complexity and color of the object.

The same applied to the brick object Two Walls. The combination of its tectonics and texture created a very lively and beautiful pattern of shadow on the wall and ground.


Finally, after all five brick objects had been constantly refined, enhanced and rebuilt over the three days, brick after brick was removed and restacked on the pallets. This demonstrated the extent to which the students got skilled in handling bricks.

“Tectonics in Building Culture: Brickwork” was a workshop providing for a wide range of vital impressions and lasting experiences. The rapid experimentation and play with the bricks, in combination with visits to selected brick buildings, provided the students with another approach to brick as a construction material. All participants made unconventional experiences and gained invaluable impressions that will allow them to reconnect their insights to architecture, hopefully leading to new perspectives, to novel methods of utilization and renewal of brick as an architectural material.

by Carmen Rist
University of Liechtenstein, Institute of Architecture and Planning, Vaduz