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Smart concrete, natural clay – and good architecture

“Heating with concrete, cooling with clay” – the provocative title of the second discussion round with German winners of the Holcim Awards again attracted more people than the lecture theatre could accommodate at the Aedes Architekturforum in Berlin. Some 130 people including a group of guests from Holcim Southern Germany showed interest in learning more about the “Smart Material House” in Hamburg and an educational center for sustainability in Marrakesh, Morocco. 

Following presentations by the design teams, architecture critic Andreas Ruby moderated a podium discussion seeking answers to the question on how building materials can be used to the best – taking geographic, climatic and above all sustainability factors into consideration.

Whereas architects Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger together with engineers Mike Schlaich and Matthias Schuler designed a multistory “card house” for IBA Hamburg using precast concrete wall elements and wooden floors, architects Anna Heringer and Salima Naji together with materials specialists Martin Rauch and Elmar Nägele re-invent traditional building techniques and show in their large-scale educational center the potential offered by combining modern technology with low-tech building material such as natural clay.

All speakers agreed that the choice of (locally available) building material can make all the difference in determining the final sustainability of a structure can be – this must, however, go hand-in-hand with good architecture. Anna Heringer and Frank Barkow made a point of demonstrating the architectural qualities of their winning projects, whereas Martin Rauch and Mike Schlaich emphasized the advantages of the building materials and techniques they had brought to the projects.

In the discussion there was consensus that we should re-learn to build in a more simple way with more simple materials: the future belongs to optimized and combined building materials, in the case of the two projects: it is a matter of getting the best static and thermal performance out of wood, clay and (infra lightweight) concrete. As the discussion concluded with questions from the audience the idea came up that the Hamburg project could benefit from the technology and specific (in particular thermal) properties of clay suggested for the Marrakesh project – and the other way around: continuing to build upon good ideas, and good architecture.

The evening was opened by Hans-Jürgen Commerell on behalf of Aedes, Ilka Ruby on behalf of textbild Berlin and Edward Schwarz on behalf of the Holcim Foundation. Following the open discussion round, the audience took advantage of visiting the “MACHEN!” exhibition on the Aedes premises which shows the six Holcim Awards winning projects designed by German teams, which continues until the end of August.

The next public discussion will be on August 17 with Francis Kéré and Eike Roswag, the Holcim Awards Gold winners for school projects using clay in Burkina Faso and a combination of mudbrick and bamboo in Pakistan.

Last Updated: August 06, 2012
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Berlin, Germany
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