Wienerberger Brick Award 2012 | Interview with Mr. Rudolf Finsterwalder
Mr Finsterwalder, two years ago you received the Wienerberger Brick Award 2010 Special Prize together with Álvaro Siza for the Museum of architecture Foundation Isle of Hombroich. What does this award mean to you?
Finsterwalder: What is important is that, compared to other awards, this award involves a very qualified procedure. Decisive for the award’s outstanding reputation is, on the one hand, the excellent press work with the accompanying book and, on the other hand, the correct selection process. I witnessed this procedure first-hand as an architect two years ago. This year, I was again convinced of the procedure in my position as jury member. Wienerberger takes the selection process very seriously and does not exercise any influence on the jury. That is an important prerequisite for the result and the selection of the prize winners and it is also respected by the architecture world. The Wienerberger Brick Award is an absolutely fantastic thing.
For this year’s Wienerberger Brick Award, you were one of a total of five jury members. How do you feel about your role as jury member?
Finsterwalder: The work together was very harmonious. Acting as a jury member was a lot of fun for everyone and we could quickly agree on the winning project. Here I must thank Wienerberger for their excellent selection of the jury members under careful consideration of competence and qualification.
For the Museum of architecture Foundation Isle of Hombroich, you re-used facing bricks from a demolished building. What is your aim with this procedure?
Finsterwalder: We made the decision to use facing brick, brick block and clay paving because the region has a great brick tradition. It is a special joy to work with a construction material that is at home in the region where the building is located and which melds with it into one harmonious whole. In realising the project, we also made reference to the many buildings of the late artist Erwin Heerich as well as to the brick villas of Mies van der Rohe that can be found in the nearby surroundings. As a natural material, the re-use of brick as a construction material also shows particular value. The imperfection of the brick, in combination with the wide joints, underscores the monolithic character of the building. This sculptural component of architecture is very important for both Álvaro Siza and for myself too.
Do you see your 2011 book “form follows nature” as a logical continuation of your approach to nature in combination with architecture? Can you summarise the content of the book in just a few words?
Finsterwalder: In my book, I deal with organic architecture, which incorporates all relevant parameters of a building into the planning process. These include, as well as technical, social and climatic parameters, also many other parameters involved in a building which forms an integrated whole – an organism – with the landscape, the location and the people who live there.
Mankind has always taken nature as an example, as a goal and a challenge in its perfection. Nature is in many ways a source of ideas for the creative human being, but also a counterpoint to one’s own work. Serving as role models are both the energetic and constructively optimised forms that can be found in nature as well as its adaptability and versatility. From nature’s rich bounty, natural scientists, engineers, architects and artists draw knowledge and inspiration.
Which special materials do you prefer when you are working? According to which parameters do you make your choice? To what degree do you consider the economic aspect?
Finsterwalder: My main interests lie in the use of natural materials such as wood, natural stone or brick. The latter is an honest material offering plenty of opportunities. I love the discipline that is required when working with brick as well as the highly exact planning with the brick dimensions, which lends the buildings an agreeable regularity. Taking costs into consideration is absolutely necessary, as an attempt must always be made to realise the project economically, though quality must be considered in addition to the costs as well. For the project in Hombroich, we made the decision together with the developers to use a back-ventilated cavity wall with a facing brick-façade, which surely is not the most affordable system, but certainly one of the best.
What special qualities do bricks and blocks have for you as a construction material? Which new developments would you like to see?
Finsterwalder: A fantastic development, and one which I repeatedly have a chance to comment on in my function as guest speaker, is that as an architect I can once again build a monolithic masonry wall. The process involves a mineral plaster being applied to the surface of the brick, which no longer needs to be insulated with a composite thermal insulation system as would otherwise be the case. The thermal insulation is now again achieved by using clay blocks as a construction material, which can unfold its full potential. As a natural material, brick breathes, it absorbs and releases moisture and it contributes to creating an agreeable indoor climate. A fantastic opportunity for modern brick and clay block architecture, one which possibly has not yet been recognised in its entirety. If there is one thing I could wish for myself for modern bricks and clay blocks, it would be an optimised stability.
In conclusion, let’s take a look into the future: How will architecture continue to develop, how will it be influenced by the changed ways of life, i.e. can architecture improve our living conditions?
Finsterwalder: Something which I see as positive is the trend to a renewed focus on quality in private residential construction. We can see a tendency toward new ways of thinking taking place and people distancing themselves from cheap construction such as composite thermal insulation systems. In architecture, the task is to increasingly emphasise the subject of sustainability and environmentally friendly methods of construction and to promote efforts at using natural raw material resources.
I also see potential in the field of urban design and socially committed housing. Attention is paid to changed life situations, as the model of the extended family can no longer be assumed these days. We must think about new forms of living. Some initial projects in which several persons or developers join together in a residential model have already been realised. The aim is the realisation of living cooperatives comprising both private spaces as well as common areas.
At Hombroich, I myself took part in the planning work for the project called “spaceplacelab”. This is a construction project in which people live and work, several families that can take advantage of the benefits of having an extended family, such as childcare, a car sharing model, common areas, and lots more. One of the tasks was to limit the developed area to a maximum of 10 percent. Our proposal included units the size of existing estates in which we concentrated the development in order to achieve as much green space between them as possible. To strengthen the identity of the individual locations, they were planned using different materials for each: one building in brick, another in wood and another in natural stone.
Dipl.-Ing. Rudolf Finsterwalder, born 1966, married
The architect Rudolf Finsterwalder was born in Rosenheim in 1966. He lives and works in Stephanskirchen and in Berlin, Germany. Since the year 2000, Finsterwalder has run an architect firm together with his wife Maria José Finsterwalder. He has realised various buildings in Europe focusing on an examination of forms and structures of nature. Finsterwalder’s prizes and awards include the German Rome Prize Fellowship 2007 and, together with Álvaro Siza, the Wienerberger Brick Award 2010 Special Prize. He has represented his works at the 9th and 11th Architecture Biennale in Venice (2004 and 2010), at the AIA New York (2005), the Island of Hombroich (2005), Museum Ludwig (2008) and the Martin-Gropius-Bau (2008 and 2011). Rudolf Finsterwalder completed studies in Interior Architecture at the University of Applied Sciences FH Rosenheim and in Architecture at TU Berlin.
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