Arquitectura Viva
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Arquitectura Viva 116


Entre Zumthor y Zaera: últimas obras cerámicas
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
Earth in Shape
Brick in the 20th Century
Eduardo de Miguel
Porcelain Skins
Burnt Clay Updated
José María de Churtichaga
Structure and Texture
The Future of Ceramic


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

Peter Zumthor
Kolumba Museum, Cologne
Álvaro Siza
Sports Center, Gondomar
De Lapuerta & Asensio
Integral Center, Carbajales
Jo Janssen
Housing, Maastricht
Bearth & Deplazes
Winery, Fläsch
FOA/Zaera & Moussavi
Shopping Center, Istanbul

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

François Chaslin
Nouvel, a French Destination
Luis Fernández-Galiano
Perrault, ‘Géométrie et Finesse’

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
Islamic Urbanity
Iain Low
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
Carme Pinós
Various Authors
Recent Projects

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
Weightless Nature
CaixaForum Building, Madrid
Rafael Moneo
Light in the Cloister
Prado Extension, Madrid

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
Ceramic Claddings
English Summary
Exposed Brick
Luis Fernández-Galiano
Ceramic Spain
Luis Fernández-Galiano

Exposed Brick

AViva-116-lfg.jpg (10184 bytes)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.

Today, brick is associated with the real estate boom, in a frenzy of bad press illustrated by the tongue twister “España está enladrillada, ¿quién la desenladrillará?”, and with a pejorative diffusion of the term that is used to refer even to artistic or literary works criticized for being too long and not too interesting. But the bubble of residential construction and the ensuing destruction of the environment has stopped suddenly as a consequence of the financial crisis that began in the summer of 2007, triggered by the American subprime mortgages and extended to the whole banking system through opaque risk distribution methods that neither rating agencies nor supervisors were able to control, with the result of a real estate crisis that has not been able to ‘unbrick’ the landscape, but that indeed creates unemployment and halts economic growth.

Even so, architecture has a timeless relationship with brick that neither modern neglect nor the current loss of prestige can ever break: the romance with ceramic will survive both in its most archaic and essential aspect and in the new uses of this eternal material, which turn craftsmanship into sophistication and modesty into luxury, reinventing brick for the 21st century. Architects shall continue to use brick in their journey to the origins and in their exploration of the future, but in this bond there will always be an element of self-inflicted pain. As the candid Krazy Kat knows well, a brick is a love declaration, and architects pursue beauty brick in hand; but the determination of Ignatz Mouse always stumbles upon the authority of Offissa Pupp, and the ‘bricked’ society points accusingly at the lovesick brick-thrower.

Arquitectura Viva 116 - LADRILLO VISTO
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