Massive Curved Vaults Mimicking Traditional Kilns House a Jingdezhen Museum Dedicated to Porcelain Production
Jingdezhen, Jiangxi, China is widely recognized as the porcelain capital of the world with a more than 2,000-year history of producing prized ceramics. As an homage to that tradition, architects from Studio Zhu-Pei constructed an open-air structure with towering arches mimicking traditional kilns. The expansive brick vaults now house the northern city’s Imperial Kiln Museum, which sits adjacent to the production sites used during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
To preserve and demarcate the existing ruins on the grounds, Studio Zhu-Pei configured the new building around the remnants, like courtyards and monuments embedded in the ground, in a way that brings together history and contemporary culture in a single space. Each of the curved structures, which is comprised of both recycled and new bricks, differs in volume and length, allowing light to stream in at varying angles throughout the day. The museum’s entrance is on the ground level so that the “experience of people entering it is the same as the past artisans,” the architects say in a statement.
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Collectively, we use a staggering amount of single-use plastic each year—we buy one million plastic bottles each minute around the world—most of which ends up in landfills, oceans, and other natural spaces. Nzambi Matee, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Nairobi, is combatting this global crisis by recycling bags, containers, and other waste products into bricks used for patios and other construction projects.
Prior to launching her company, Gjenge Makers, Matee worked as a data analyst and oil-industry engineer. After encountering plastic waste along Nairobi’s streets, she decided to quit her job and created a small lab in her mother’s backyard, testing sand and plastic combinations. Matee eventually received a scholarship to study in the materials lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she ultimately developed a prototype for the machine that now produces the textured bricks.
Made from a combination of plastic and sand, the pavers have a melting point higher than 350°C and are more durable than their concrete counterparts. Matee and her team source much of the raw product from factories and recyclers, and sometimes it’s free, which allows the company to reduce the price point on the product and make it affordable for schools and homeowners. So far, Gjenge Makers has recycled more than 20 tons of plastic and created 112 job opportunities in the community.
“It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter–a basic human need,” Matee said in a statement. “Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous, but its afterlife can be disastrous.”
Right now, the company generates between 1,000 and 1,500 bricks per day, and Matee hopes to expand across Africa. You can see more of Gjenge Makers’ production and finished projects on Instagram. (via designboom)
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Varied Bricks and Ceramic Blocks Comprise the Asymmetric Facade of a Spacious Community Center in Bengal
What began as a task to install a new parking structure in Bansberia, India quickly morphed into an open community center awash with patterned brickwork. Conceived by Abin Design Studio, “Gallery House” spans 380-square-meters and combines multiple masonry techniques to form the asymmetric facade. The Kolkata-based team alternated ceramic blocks created by a local artist and a mixture of rectangular, chevron, and curved bricks sourced from a nearby field, resulting in a variegated, textured structure that mimics the terracotta temples of Bengal.
Positioned opposite the gaping ground entrance, a large staircase spills into the street and offers a seating area for residents hoping to watch the yearly festivities that pass by the building. A spacious hall fills the first floor with a lounge, pantry, and multi-purpose area used for yoga and other classes on the upper stories. When community members head home after the day’s activities, the rooms are converted into dormitories for the staff.
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The teams at Gramazio Kohler Research and Incon.Ai recently collaborated on an architectural project that merges digital savvy with traditional craftsmanship to create a skillful new building technique. Completed in 2019, “Augmented Bricklaying” relies on digital markers to instruct bricklayers about where to spread mortar, how thick to layer it, and what the position of the next stone should be.
A custom-designed guidance system, the hybrid technique combats the limitations of both traditional and innovative digital approaches: robotic arms have restricted mobility and difficulty with pliable materials like mortar, while physical templates can be cumbersome and less accurate for masons. The new model “combines the advantages of computational design with the dexterity of humans, supporting an entirely new way of fabrication,” the Zurich-based team said in a statement.
To create the 225 square-meter structure, masons assembled 13,596 locally sourced bricks in varying rows. The differentiated mortar heights range from five to 30 millimeters and help to determine each brick’s rotation that spans -20° to +20°. “That way mortar, usually treated as secondary material in the design of fair-faced brick walls, became a defining element in the appearance of the facade,” the team said.
Because of the differed construction, the porous exterior appears as a wave or ripple. The patterned facade provides ventilation and allows sunlight to stream into the building, which produces an array of circles that shifts based on the time of day. It will house KITRVS Winery’s processing and storage facility. The Greek vineyard overlooks the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea at the base of Mount Olympus.
Gramazio Kohler Research is the ETH Zurich’s chair of architecture and digital fabrication, and Incon.Ai is a subsidiary of the organization’s robotic systems labs. Keep up with Gramazio Kohler’s inventive projects on Instagram and Vimeo. (via designboom)
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