Murstensdialog, ergonomidesign og materialemagi

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Article: Architecture Detail

The American Architect Louis Kahn (date ?) would tell his students they should ask building materials for advice.

"You say to a brick, 'What do you want, brick?' And brick says to you, 'I like an arch.' And you say to brick, 'Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel.' And then you say: 'What do you think of that, brick?' Brick says: 'I like an arch.'"

Sound advice, but we work today in an architectural design environment where the conceptual idea is paramount to selling a design, rather than the material and the details needed to execute the design. This drives a tendency that a material and the assembly - the making - comes second fiddle to a design gesture. So this honesty that Kahn communicates rarely follows through in practice – for better and for worse. However wise Kahn's remarks are to his students I am not a fan of only letting the material perform on its own premise. Bricks for example can be challenged to do more than stacking and there are many examples of both architects and engineers that have sculptured space by pushing a materials inherent tectonic. For brick, Eladio Dieste (date?) is a fantastic example. Dieste was a Uruguayan engineer and architect who made his reputation by building a range of structures from grain silos, factory sheds, markets and churches, with precision and elegance - all made from a primitive building block - the brick. And he challenged the potential of this material to the extent I could easily imagine an extension to Kahn's conversation with a brick where the brick could reply how surprised and pleased it was to find a new way of being. There are many reasons why a brick is the size it is but there is no mistaking that the weight and the shape responds to the bricklayers hand insofar as the act of laying can be carried out as a hand craft. Today though we see many prefabricated brick sandwich walls where the laying is made in a warehouse, by potentially robots – so we may in the future need to assess our understanding of the size and shape of a brick.

Tectonic, architectural detail and ergonomics.

As architects we are providers of space and therefore need building blocks to construct space. My interest is how building materials and the way we as architects detail can have a positive contribution to space, the use of space and our physical contact. Ergonomics therefore can play a crucial role in designing space. One of the best examples I can think of is Maison De Verre (built 1928 to 1932) in Paris, France by Pierre Chareau (a furniture and interior designer). It is an oasis of detail, both from conception to construction. The detail I highlight is a door to the receptionist's office where the gynecologist leads his patient out after consultation. The door handle of this door is on the hinge side of the door and is a spherical knob sliding in an arced slot so that the gynecologist can open the door without his body impinging in the space of the door. Furthermore by opening the door with this door handle he not only does not obstruct the patient spatially but also simulates bowing as the patient leaves thereby acknowledging and respecting the indignities of the consultation. It is a small detail, but has a powerful contribution to how one uses space.


At Yale University, New Haven USA is the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library designed by SOM and built in 1963. The building contains Yale University's principal rare books and literary manuscripts serving as a research centre for students, faculty, and other scholars. The library reads as a rectangle block with, at plaza level, a full glass façade with floors above constructed of an exposed tapered steel framework covered with granite on the outside and pre-cast granite aggregate concrete on the inside. Fitted into the bays in between the framework are panels of white, translucent marble that admits subdued daylight into the library while blocking the heat and harsh rays of the sun. And this is where the magic of material and detail plays out. The thin marble allows light to filter through but one can not see out. When illuminated by daylight the structure and grain of the marble is lit up giving an insight into the materials construction, but also a slice of our earth even. Adding to this visual joy is the fantastic drama of when the sun’s intensity changes as a cloud for example obscures the sun’s rays. As a visitor we can not see sunlight and shadow without this filter obscuring our direct view. What we do see and experience however is natural light intensity changing and through the marble and acting within the space we stand. It is as though one is standing in a lung of light that breathes in and out depending on how much sunlight passes through our atmosphere. The space appears to get bigger is direct sunlight and contract when the sun is in shadow.
Bidragets oversatte titelArchitectural detail
OriginalsprogDansk
TidsskriftByg, bæredygtigt byggeri
Vol/bind2016
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)2-3
Antal sider2
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2016

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