Variations in earth
Exhibition on the metamorphosis of earth to object.
co curated by BC
BC and valerie_traan gallery invited 8 designers, artists and architects to explore the different qualities and potentials of earth. They delve into this story and search for the essence of the material together with local craftsmen.
Earth is a material known to everyone, yet it remains mysterious — an outcome of a long erosion, decomposition and weathering process, resulting in a mixture of grains, water and air. These three elements create a solid material with which volumes, structures and houses can be built.
In the urban context, earth is commonly seen as a waste material: millions of tonnes are excavated from building sites every year and taken to landfills. BC's practice revolves around revaluing this material as an undisturbed, primary, local resource. The earth beneath our feet can be transformed into carbon-neutral and healthy loam plasters, loam bricks, loam logs (rammed earth), which always have a story to tell.
Yet there is still scepticism about the material, because there is little awareness of the potential of earth in crafts, both in architecture and design and art.
With this exhibition BC, together with craftsmen and designers, wants to explore earth as a material to make, and share these experiments with the visitors.
designers & architects + makers:
Case design (IN) + Aardig Gedacht (BE)
Elise Eeraerts (BE) + Grond-studio (BE)
Sarah El Yousefy (BE) , David Hoppenbrouwers (BE) , Elise Laurent (BE),Kenneth Smet (BE) and Anna Zan (PL) + BC materials (BE)
OS_Studio (BE) + Het Leemniscaat (BE)
Thomas Noceto (FR) and Cinzia Romanin (BE)
The Earth Core Family is a first in a series of stone furniture pieces - all made using a thrifty approach to earth’s stone and its industrial by-products and waste.
The stone cores, which are often removed at quarries as part of industrial and construction processes (to lighten and give way to reinforcement), are often discarded. Here they become legs. Quarry dust and stone off cuts are bound together in 'plug' reinforcements. The natural and man made ingredients of one quarry morph into a seat.
Produced with support from Simon Darves Blanc of La Pierre au Carré. Stone supplied by Carrieres de Provence
_Assemble is a multi-disciplinary collective working across architecture, design and art.
Founded in 2010 to undertake a single self-built project, Assemble has since delivered a diverse and award-winning body of work, whilst retaining a democratic and co-operative working method that enables built, social and research-based work at a variety of scales, both making things and making things happen.
Case design + Aardig Gedacht
Case design + Aardig Gedacht
Habitat is defined as the natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism. Rammed earth as a construction technique allows you to inhabit this material by transforming locally available resources such as earth, chalk, lime, or gravel into solid volumes to create shelters.
Earth, soil, is also an environment itself providing the opportunity, space, and nutrients for growth and development of plants, an essential food source. It can therefore be used to create both shelters as well as objects that can nourish and sustain life.
A vessel to grow food
Made out of rammed earth, a pot is not only a recipient that holds the seed, it is made out of the compound that provides the necessary elements for the seed to grow. On the outside, the earth is tightly packed to maintain its shape and volume. On the inside, the earth is left loose for the seed to grow freely. Once used, the pot can be broken into its original crushed form and returned to the garden.
A container to ferment food
Food fermentation enriches the diet through development of a diversity of flavors and textures, preserves substantial amounts of food over time, enriches food substrates with protein, amino acids, and vitamins, eliminates antinutrients, and reduces cooking time and the associated use of fuel. This sealed rammed earth pot creates a suitable environment for the fermentation process of plants, vegetables and fruits, preserving them and enhancing your meal with sweet, sour and vinegary tastes.
A place to cook food
Preparing food with heat or fire is an activity unique to humans. Cooking prevents many foodborne illnesses by killing or inactivating harmful organisms. It also increases the digestibility of many foods. The rammed earth oven allows you to make bread as well as slow cook any meal in a simple iron pot. The form work used to mould the chamber is simply burnt in place, generating the first fire that will take place within.
A surface to serve food
Eating food is a necessary act for simple survival. As social animals, a meal is often an occasion for social interactions. These large serving plates made of rammed earth and sealed with lime allow you to share food with your family and friends.
The expansion of agriculture, commerce, trade, and transportation between civilizations in different regions offered cooks many new ingredients. Using all the rammed earth objects, we have created a simple vegan meal with preparations made out of local seasonal ingredients with added Indian spices and cooking methods. Keeping in mind the contemporary concerns of health, diet, and sustainability, this meal is the culinary expression of inhabitation.
_Based in Mumbai with projects in India, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Case Design is an architecture and design practice committed to exploring the design process through acts of making. They believe that objects and spaces deeply impact our relationship with the world around us and seek to create moments of quality inspired by observations from our daily lives. These experiences, both spatial and formal, are situationally grounded, considerate to human interaction and are inherently imbued with content and meaning.
As a collection of people with diverse backgrounds, they also believe that collaboration lies at the core of all good work. Regardless of method or medium, the greatest form of sustainability is to produce work of lasting value. In that spirit, they aspire to create things that are simple, beautiful and functional.
_Aardig gedacht (since 2010) is an ecological finishing company that is alwaysin search for new materials and their applications, mainly for finishing houses. They also develop objects, sometimes in cooperation with architects and designers. Searching for the essence of materials such as loam, lime, clay, hemp, straw, etc. forms an important part of the design and creation process.
The pression of sand within a mould, the fluid aluminium that solidified into a contra shape. Shapes that find their origin within typical stone masonry, a way of building based on organically shaped stone blocks, whether made by nature forces or by human hands. These sculptural objects, can be called ‘bookends’ or ‘abutments’.
Together they mainly emphasize the act of support, a play of stability. These small shapes need each other to become a whole - the different parts support each other, lean on each other's weight.
The gestures that reflect stone masonry into new sculptures, result into a series of volumes made from the BC Material - a mixture of sand, clay and small fibres for strengthening the volume - and casted aluminium with a vivid texture. Both are made with an initial model in wax, afterwards casted within a plaster mould. Still, the traces of the castings are visible, in different textures and details.
Between plaster - sand - wax - aluminium, there is a continuous interaction between these shape and contra-shape, from one material to the other.
In the process of mixing the grey Brusseleir, with different quantities of natural pigment made of charred grape branches. The different shapes in darkened, almost black clay/sand, become more vivid with its waxed coating. And on the aluminium parts, the black wax - which is a remnant of the process of casting - we decided not to polish away. In both the final pieces of BC Material and aluminium, the initial material wax is again integrated in its coating.
Stone masonry can be found in different cultures of architecture. A way of building walls with an origin in Inca culture, with many variations in the Japanese buildings, though diverse stone masonry can be found in European (contemporary) architecture as well. These endless variations; walls built with residual stones, each with different shapes, makes you doubt if they just happens to fit together, or whether each stone is cut precisely to size. Though this technique has a certain rural character, it should have potential in the modern city. Now presented as small supporting objects, I can imagine a larger scale where this natural rhythm of stones can be used in new ways of building.
_Within the works of Destroyers/Builders an interaction between the furniture pieces exist in an overarching inspiration; found in architectural elements, materials or building techniques. Linde Freya Tangelder, founder of the studio, strives for sensory relevance and cultural value in detail and larger scale. The works have a sculptural and architectural character, and balance between contemporary and traditional elements. Inspired by architectural shapes, the furniture pieces highlight the field between industry and human, through diverse materials. Constructions are scaled down to human sizes, and translations result into sculptural gestures. Both low and high end materials get revalued, reconsidered and transformed. The interventions and finishes by hand, give these architectural objects a tactile aspect. The contrast in materials, the touchability, and the human traces that are still visible in the object, explain the method of Destroyers/Builders.
The urge to situate the works in a spatial context, in which the specific architectural space will start a dialogue with the objects therein, is a main focus of the studio. Integrations and relations between the context and the work, whether it is a sculpture, a furniture piece or an architectural fragment, result into inseparable connections between the disciplines. Destroyers/Builders takes on projects that range from commissions to self-initiated projects, and extends across the realms of both architectural furniture and interior projects. The practice is founded in 2014 and Antwerp & Brussels based.
Elise Eeraerts + Grond-studio
For the exhibition ‘Variations in Earth’ we present a spatial intervention ‘Possible Patterns’. It is comprised of modular elements. They make up a large volume that emerges as a fragment of built space.
The modular elements that the intervention consists of are made of rammed earth. There are 5 different shapes that function intermodularly as a group. Among these, some establish a scaled up/down version of themselves. ‘Possible Patterns’ originates from research into the standardization and customization of shapes, geometry and composition. Through the work’s modularity a multitude of configurations could be (re) built.
Within these modular units an additional experiment is materialized through the creation of openings in the middle. These openings have a visual impact, constituting small windows to look through ‘Possible Patterns’ from different sides. Yet they also bring forward fragility in terms of the material stability of rammed earth. Usually, mud bricks do not contain openings within their own volume. Pushing their distinctive balance to its limit, challenges and activates the senses and experience of the viewer.
_Elise Eeraerts (°1986, Mechelen) has completed her studies in 2011 at the Institute fur Raumexperimente, Olafur Eliasson class, in Berlin and at Luca school of Arts in Brussels. She has exhibited in Antwerp in Extra City Kunsthal, Rome in Villa Massimo, Japan in Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Leuven in Museum M, Iceland in Reykjavik Art Museum, Paris at Cité des Arts, Mexico at ZonaMaco, Sweden at Lunds Konsthall and Berlin in Neue Nationalgalerie & Hamburger Bahnhof. In 2014 she was a resident/fellow at Villa Serpentara in Italy (Junge Akademie, Berlin), in 2016-2017 at Casa de Velázquez in Madrid (French Academy) and in 2018 at Atelier Calder in France (Calder Foundation). Currently she is a fellow at Schloss Solitude and later this year she will complete a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in Washington DC.
_Grond Studio, Founded 2020 in Brussels by Pieter Van Bruyssel, works with raw earth materials.
Using century-old techniques combined with novel material knowledge and contemporary aesthetics, we mould these materials into unique surfaces. Clay plaster & rammed earth are our core business.
We are not afraid of experimentation and always work in close collaboration with architects, artists, designers & scientists.
These collaborations not only add a distinctive aesthetical layer to projects but also take well-known construction methods a step further.
Elise Eeraerts + Grond-studio
Sarah El Yousefy, David Hoppenbrouwers, Elise Laurent,Kenneth Smet and Anna Zan + BC materials
Created by five designers and makers, the stool was designed and rammed during a collaborative workshop under the supervision of BC and atelier Kara.
The intent was to build a mold with a minimal insert that would give a powerful design to the rammed object. It became an elegant cylinder stool, diagonally cut in its depth, which emphasizes the mass while evoking its vulnerability.
This earth product aims to attract a wider public and break the prejudices made around this material, often considered as poor or nonresistant.
May this piece of design reveal to you the beauty and ecological relevance of earth as a building material for furniture as for architecture.
_BC materials is an international award-winning cooperative which recovers surplus earth-mass from construction sites and transforms it into construction materials. At its Brussels production site, BC materials blends and transforms ordinary earth streams - considered by some as waste - into perfectly circular building materials, such as clay plasters, compressed earth blocks and rammed earth.
_Anna Zań, Amsterdam-based architect with the main interest in simple and ethical ways of building with the use of natural materials.
_Sarah El Yousefy completed a Master at The Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering and Urban Planning (LOCI ) in 2015, Brussels. She did a year intership in architecture offices in Amsterdam and studied for a year in Mexico. She is currently living in Brussels where she works as an architect at ICI and has her own architectural and design projets .
_From his atelier in Leuven designer and maker David Hoppenbrouwers tries to create lovable, functional objects. A common thread through his work is a link with language, modularity and the combination of scrap and new materials.
_After his training at the Institut Supérieur de Peinture Vanderkelen-Logelain, Kenneth Smet specialised further in historical decoration and restoration techniques. His outspoken passion for traditional painting techniques ensures a subtle nod to the past within contemporary projects.
_Based in Amsterdam, Elise Laurent is a Belgian architect who aims for an architecture of simple forms built with humble or natural materials.
She supports projects that seek to answer societal issues.
Sarah El Yousefy, David Hoppenbrouwers, Elise Laurent, Kenneth Smet and Anna Zan + BC materials
OS_Studio + Het Leemniscaat
Earth and Fire
A.773 is the first of a series of modular rammed earth wood-burning stoves. The outlook and height of each stove is a result of the characteristics of the soil(s) in combination with the shapes of the mould(s) and the (stamping) mood of the maker.
A.773 was conceived according to the OpenStructures design principles and is part of the OpenStructures design collection.
_OS_Studio is the creative studio and major driving force behind OpenStructures, the open modular design methodology. OS_Studio is run by Christiane Högner and Thomas Lommée, a German-Belgian design duo with a clear political agenda and a broad insight into the system they have been developing over the years. OS_Studio works internationally on cultural, residential and commercial projects both for the public and private sector.
_Het Leemniscaat was founded in 1998 and was the first fully-fledged loam company in Belgium. They specialise in occupation and decoration work in clay plaster and lime plaster. For some years now they have also been specialising in the installation of insulation using straw and lime hemp and other alternative natural insulation materials, both in new buildings and in renovations. Het Leemniscaat wants to encourage clients to join in the search for sustainable solutions and opts for a creative, traditional and personal approach. In addition to the beauty of working with natural materials, sustainable building is given a deeper meaning as they take care to minimise the chain of production and transport to the end product.
OS_studio+ Het Leemniscaat
For Variations in Earth, Unfold presents a series of vessels made of five different types of rammed earth.The clays that they used for the rammed earth vessels were taken during their travels between 2014 and 2019 in Zion Canyon (USA), Stockholm (SE), Zagreb (CR) and Le Crotoy (FR). A last vessel was made with the clay provided by BC Architects coming from the Argilieres Hins in Belgium.
Normally, Unfold fires their clay objects. This time, they did not fire the clay, but used a laser engraver to work the surface of the vessels. The laser transforms the clay on the surface and superficially burns and melts it. Each clay - depending on the oxides and chemicals in the clay - reacts differently to the laser causing the surface to color in various ways. The five vessels show the variety of colours and shades that can be achieved with this technique.
_As the founders of Unfold (Belgium, 2002), Claire Warnier and Dries Verbruggen have continuously orchestrated conversations between the fields of physical making and digital form-giving. As ad-hoc interpreters who speak neither the mother-tongue of computer code nor that of traditional craft, they create unusual scenarios of confrontation between the two in which the untranslatable, the idiomatic and the unexpected are foregrounded against a field of normative design practice. At the same time, each of their projects also explores one of myriad tangents of the digital-analogue divide, building a line of inquiry into issues such as technical proficiency, intellectual property, and the uniqueness of the identical object.
In 2009, Unfold developed the first ceramic 3D printer and documented this process online as open source plans. This kickstarted a world wide community for ceramic 3D printing which they actively maintain. Since then, they established a vast body of work in which they explore material culture in a digital age. A recurring thread in this exploration is the investigation of tools, starting with the critically acclaimed installation L’Artisan Électronique (2010) in which they connect the printer to a virtual pottery wheel or Of Instruments and Archetypes (2014), a set of archaic looking measuring instruments that stream their values wirelessly to a digital parametric CAD model allowing for effortless customisation and hands-on CAD design.
Thomas Noceto and Cinzia Romanin
By proposing to use earth as a living body and creative substance, this exhibition was the opportunity to go beyond the normative architectural photography to dare and imagine various artistic experimentations.
Through the combination of visual approaches, this photographic research deepens the exposition theme ‘Variations in earth’ and explores the divers potentials of this organic matter too often devalued.
Being curated by BC, the project especially focuses on Belgian earth coming from local construction sites and quarries. By capturing these places and using pigments made out of these soils, the subject becomes the object as a substantial fragment of reality.
Due to its handcrafted approach and affinity with the light-sensitive photographic process, screen printing was the most relevant technique to reveal images with earth pigments. The combination of this empirical practice with the clay physical characteristics, creates then unique visual and organic art pieces.
In this sense, the exposition aims to show each step of this complex process from the raw tools - the artisanal clay-based 120 mm negative films and their enlargement highligh- ting their atypical texture - to the final art works - the handcrafted prints made of earth. In complement to this photographic research, a video draws the context of this local raw excavated material which is the playground of the divers exhibition artistic creations.
_Both architects by training, Thomas Noceto learned photography and video on his own, while Cinzia Romanin specialized in photography during an additional master in Venice and an enriching apprenticeship with the photographer Geert Goiris. Besides their personal projects, their knowledge of space and social entourage led them to collaborate with architecture offices on divers artistic creations. Performed through various visual mediums, their realisations immerse you into a sensitive and committed universe that questions the actual state and future of our surrounding environment.
Thomas Noceto and Cinzia Romanin