Is the application of brick in contemporary architecture dependent on the context?
The concept of our designs is, in accordance with the philosophy of our office, based on the comprehensive analysis of the context and research into the use of old materials such as brick. In a project in China, for example, the International Grape Exhibition Garden in Yanqig near Beijing, we consciously used antique grey Chinese brick in addition to concrete. A symbiosis giving the entire complex a special expression. In the project we did for the Cantina Antinori Winery near Florence, terracotta was an essential component of our design, too. The clay building material, which comes from the surrounding area, reinforces the interaction between the underground premises and the landscape, earth is in a way returned to earth. Here we intensively delved into its pigmentation and selected different earthy shades depending on the respective function of the areas.
For the Biblioteca di Nembro near Bergamo, you used angled terracotta elements on the façade as shading device. What was your inspiration behind this?
In this project, terracotta is used in a new way and draws attention to the building. Our inspiration was the expressiveness of art. The library, as an accumulation of things, is interpreted on the façade by means of a repeated element – the book – and simultaneously visualises the character and the function of the building.
With a bookshelf made of terracotta, you take another step forward in the uncommon usage of the material. How did this come about?
The Terreria shelf, so called because the material comes from the ground, terra, is indeed exceptional. Originally, the design was developed for the furnishings of the Cantina Antinori Winery. Meanwhile, it is produced in series by Italian manufacturer Moroso. Three basic elements, which can be stacked and combined in various ways, invite to playfully use the natural, original material, which we already know for thousands of years and which corresponds to the human scale like no other. To apply this building material in ever-increasing new ways, the collaboration between us as architects and the industry is essential because the know-how of both of us is required for a contemporary interpretation of brick.