PROF. JOHANNES KISTER
Back in the days when university holidays really were holidays – time spent away, far away from university – I for many years had this urge to mould architectural fantasies out of the clay used for constructing stoneware pipes, to use my hands to develop the discs into sculptures. That’s right: “to develop” – after all, they had the potential to be anything before I started, with their shape only solidifying during the building process. While creating the sculpture, I permitted myself to vary the building plan, to expand it, to fragment it, or to let it embark on a whole new direction.
Also, the fragility of the material forced me to take breaks – a construction process in miniature. This was dictated by the material. Bricks are building elements that embody the building process in its purest form. I am convinced that the so-called industrialisation of building has overlooked many moments that will today once again come to be regarded as important. No other building materials except ceramic building materials are better suited to the challenge of ensuring both sustainability and the future of building. They are durable and can be produced in almost limitless quantities.
Ceramic is, you might say, the “material of the hour”. And at the Biennale 2016, no other material was as prominent as fi red earth. The emphasis was on not only new materials and new moulded parts but also, and above all, on both recyclability and craftsmanship. Right in the very fi rst room you entered, roofs made from cut ceramic residue were on display with original models, which, laid in concrete, create a colourful, ornamental surface. The durability of ceramic was showcased even where the cutting technique lent the reinstallation a special aesthetic. On display too were ceramic models cast to form new shaped elements, which, in turn, were then cast with concrete. What makes these processes so exciting is not only the recycling itself but also the artistry involved in the process of transforming materials. The craftsmanship in particular, which charges the reinstallation with an architectural fl air, reveals something that gains huge signifi cance in the overall context of the Biennale. Alongside the social aspect, which pervades every aspect of the exhibition, the projects communicated something explicitly architectural that could not have been expected and that became apparent only as part of the overall show. This was not just about imparting a message of socially responsible building and engaging the public in the projects, but also about the craftsmanship skills that a multitude of people contribute to the building process. The joy that building, as a crafting process, can bring because it perfectly embodies, like no other activity, human participation in the formation of the world around us and makes us realise what we – or, in particular, our industrialised nations – are missing. Alongside Industry 4.0, humans also yearn for the tangible, for the ability to engage our senses and our manual skills in the transformation and the building of our world. And all this was evident in the various fruits of research and experimentation on show at the atelier’s tables in Venice. The computer is a tool here – but that’s all, just a tool. Through this understanding of the exhibits, it became clear to me that ceramic, clay and bricks in all their myriad
shapes, sizes and processing methods cannot help but be the centre of attention.
Ceramic is extremely versatile, after all: people coming together to build, in an identity-defi ning act, wherever something is to be created with simple and scarce resources. At the same time, the process of craftsmanship satisfies a new, aesthetic desire that is as much part of the building process as the simple need to put a roof over our heads. Even if in the beginning this was only an imagination during the university holidays!
Professor Johannes Kister