The Brick Award is a prestigious international prize awarded to the best brick buildings since 2004. This well-known biennial competition had its first Polish edition in 2013, and the results of this year's contest were recently announced.
Brick is one of mankind’s oldest and most durable building materials. Resistant to a range of conditions, well-insulated, and simple to use, it's found around the world. The Brick Award, organised by the Wienerberger company, a producer of building materials, aims to show that brick is a versatile and modern material. Even though it was invented thousands of years ago, it can still express the spirit of the 21st century.
The first edition of the Polish competition took place in 2013; a jury of specialists selected projects which would then represent Poland in the international Brick Award competition. The winners of the current Polish edition were announced on 10th March 2015. Architects and journalists were asked to submit projects that they perceive as worth winning any of five categories: Single-Family Home, Public Use, Multi-Family Housing, Re-Use and Special Solution with Brick. The organisers provided an additional category for students’ projects.
The seven-member jury under Prof. Ewa Kuryłowicz’s chairmanship, a juror of the international edition of Brick Award 2014, chose the best realisations in each category. One can say that the greatest brick buildings in Poland are those built no later than two years ago.
The Grand Prix and the Multi-Family Housing prize were awarded to the HS99 design team from Koszalin for their ZW109 apartment building, which is placed on a narrow lot in the centre of Koszalin. A modest and simple block was built with graphite-coloured bricks. The minimalist building is complemented with a decorative gate, which is a reminiscent of the 19th-century tenement blocks that stood at this location before WWII. The jury appreciated the carefully designed, stylish silhouette of the building, as well as the idea of evoking the tragic history of the town, demolished during the war.
A project by Emiko Hayakawa and Aureliusz Kowalczyk beat its rivals in the Single-Family Home category. Their project of a suburban home in Józefów is an irregular building among pine trees. Its brick walls turn into screens upon which the tree shadows pace as the day passes. The elevation made of grey bricks is warmed up with wooden details.
In the Public Use category the jury acknowledged the Comprehensive Music School in Wrocław, a building finely fitted to its surroundings and adjusted to the busy street’s scale. The school, designed by Maćków Pracownia Projektowa, is on Piłsudskiego Street. It has a historically unique shape, yet it fits among the monumental neighbouring buildings.
Justyna Lebiedzik, Martyna Dziurska and Karolina Krupa were awarded in the students’ projects category. As the jury justified: “inspiration with the form of one of the most common building elements – airbricks – turns the everyday into poetry with help of architectural skills”.
Projects awarded with Polish Brick Awards will represent Poland in the international edition of this competition in 2016. However, on top of the main prizes, the jury has also handed out distinctions. One of them was presented to Robert Konieczny for his Living-Garden House (a single-family home) project, where the author combines the lightness of the mirrored ground floor with a heavy, monolithic brick block of the top floor.
SDA Architects received a distinction for their office building project – the Corporate Service Centre in Płock. This expressive building made of dark bricks was additionally fitted with vertical, razor blade-like blinds which complement the raw elevation.
The Ericpol Software Pool offices in Łódź, designed by Horizone Studio Darasz Kisielewski Strzeński Sp. J., was awarded for its ambitious and authorial elevation, shaped with use of hand-formed bricks. The irregularly laid, imperfect bricks allowed the designers to make the innovative object fit better among the older, neighbouring buildings (the office block is located in the place of a former palatial garden, on an area under conservator’s care).
In the Re-Use category a distinction was presented to Mofo Architekci for their Browar Lubicz (Lubicz Brewery) project. The function of this post-industrial building has been completely transformed: it’s now an apartment block with commercial spaces.
Another distinction was presented to Michał Zbytniewski, an architecture student, who created a housing complex for the elderly for the Architektura +65 competition. The jury appreciated the idea “of focusing inhabitants of the complex around an area dominated by a brick fireplace and around fire and warmth it generates”.
Even though it was used to build castles in the Middle Ages and to build factories in the 19th century, brick can still surprise. Whether any of the recently awarded Polish projects will be acknowledged in the international Brick Award competition, we will find out in spring of 2016.
Author: Anna Cymer, transl. Agata Dudek March 2015.