It has been a while since I have posted in the blog, but this is due to a workshop we have had recently. As you may (or may not) remember, I mentioned that during the last four works, we have been working on material workshops - Learning more about materials and their abilities and such. First we worked with a project that examined the strength of paper structures, and later a similiar project, but with really thin load-bearing wooden sticks (I haven't posted about the latter project on the blog, since it is very similar to the paper structure project). After these minor structure experiments, we were to choose to work from a variety of four different materials: bricks, concrete, steel and wood. The material I wished to work with was concrete, being the most common building material, but due to an unfortunate day of absence (and yes, unfortunately it was on the very day on which we were to choose our material-groups!), I ended up in the masonry workshop instead.

The masonry workshop was at first sight rather simple. But then again, it was at times surprisingly challenging. We were given 1:5 scale bricks to work with at first, with which we were to create a model of a wall fragment - A brick pattern to put it simply. Being one of those think-out-of-the-box architect types, I naturally started off by attempting to make very dynamic and organic patterns, but I quickly learned that such patterns are very unstable when building with bricks. Due to such structural weaknesses, I ended up simplyfing my design more and more, until I ended up with result above. I have to admit it is a design that I was (and still am) rather disappointed with, but on the larger scale, it actually looks alright (we were to make a 1:20 visualization of our pattern - this is shown later in the post.)

After everyone had completed a model each, 14 of the designs were chosen for real-life construction. My classmate, Jens', model was selected as one of the 14, and together we built it at a masonry high school outside of Copenhagen, as part of our masonry program. During this two-day masonry course, we quickly learned that the art of brick masonry is far more challenging than it seems, and the work is, well to say the least, pretty hard! I can assure you that after about 6-7 hours of working on the wall (which furthermore is much slower than the tempo in which professional masons work in!), the both of us went home with back pains! Below is a photoshop visualization of a facade with my brick pattern. As you can see, it looks almost completely different once you add some windows and doors to the pattern, bringing it to life in a real-life situation (best seen in full screen):

Even though I didn't get to work with the material I wished to work with, I still got a valuable lesson from the masonry course. First of all it is a material I wouldn't often choose to work with, meaning that I wouldn't learn much about it, so I'm glad I got to learn more about it in case I were to use it in a project some day. Another important thing I learned, is that we as architects can often get really comfortable in front of our desks, sitting with a cup of joe and designing buildings in an office, while forgetting that builders at site are doing a really hard work to build our visions to life. I have learned of the hard work that takes place in the building process (at least that of masonry), and I'll remember it as a reminder that we should also mind conditions and challenges that real-life on-site workers must face in order to make our projects realitys.

P.S. We have just started on our new project today, and on that occasion, we're going to be spending the next three days on the small island of Hven (an island between Denmark's Zealand and Sweden). Expect a post about the trip and the new project when I return.

- Andy Minchev