National Exhibition Challenges Designers and Masonry Industry
Journal: November - December 2003
BAC and IMI believe that masonry’s time-honored qualities of durability, beauty, scale, texture, flexibility and color have even more to offer,” says IMI President Joan B. Calambokidis. Inspiring the masonry industry to look to its design future and challenging designers to think of new applications are the goals of a new exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
“Masonry Variations,” sponsored by BAC and IMI, has two important points to make. The first is to push masonry design into the future. The second is to highlight the value of collaboration between those who design with masonry and those who make those designs a reality. Far from an academic exercise, the exhibition is expected to create a new excitement about masonry, one that will translate into increased use of the materials and work opportunities for BAC members.
The message of collaboration underscores the critical advantage of using skilled BAC craftworkers who are true partners in the construction process. Architect Brian Burke, who worked on the Brick installation, says he considered it an honor to work with someone as dedicated as BAC bricklayer/IMI Regional Training Director Keith Behrens. “He is the guy who made it happen, and there was no hurdle that he could not overcome. BAC craftsmanship is unsurpassed.”
The exhibition spotlights three masonry classics – stone, brick and terrazzo – plus a new one, Aerated Autoclaved Concrete, or AAC block. Guest curated by Stanley Tigerman, FAIA, of Tigerman McCurry Architects, the teams consisted of four renowned architects and four expert BAC/IMI instructors, with big assists from other BAC craftworkers and BAC/IMI instructors from New York, Houston, and the National Training Center.
The Terrazzo team of Los Angeles architect Julie Eizenberg of Koning Eizenberg Architecture and BAC terrazzo mechanic/IMI Terrazzo Instructor Mike Menegazzi took raw shards of slate tiles and transformed them into terrazzo-in-motion, flowing from highly polished smoothness to an increasingly rugged texture. A universal reaction to the twisting wall and floor of terrazzo was, “I didn’t know you could do that!”
The Brick team of Houston architect Carlos Jiménez of Carlos Jimenez Studio and BAC bricklayer/IMI Regional Training Director Keith Behrens took a 180-degree turn from the material’s traditional method – compression – by creating interlaced and moveable armatures joined together in tension. The goal was to take the perceived desire to be an arch, and push it further, into a full ring, “I wondered if our brick wanted to be freed, if only temporarily, from its innate obedience to gravity and stability,” says Jimenez. The result was a three-ring brick gyroscope floating and pivoting through air.
A radical switch from compression to tension also defined the Stone installation, created by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects and BAC stonemason/IMI Special Projects Coordinator Matthew Redabaugh. They took classic marble and created a new, translucent blend of stone, woven glass fiber, and resin, to wind up with a marble curtain of 600 interlocking pieces hanging in tension from the gallery’s vaulted ceiling.
For AAC block, New York architect Winka Dubbeldam of Architectonics and BAC Craftworker/IMI Regional Training Director Robert Mion, Jr. sculpted the new material, which is one-third the density and weight of traditional concrete block, based on the graphic patterns of sound waves. Ironically, while the AAC installation was considered by many to be the most futuristic, the AAC material used was basically in its everyday form. “BAC visitors were surprised and astounded by the way we were able to shape and form it,” says Mion. “They are still talking about it at Regional meetings.”
Rounding out the installations, and underscoring the contribution that BAC and IMI have made to architecture and building, are exhibit panels on the history of masonry techniques, changing methods of production, and possibilities for future uses.
Since BAC and IMI have jointly taken a lead in the research and development of masonry techniques, applications, and materials, the exhibition is a natural step in promoting masonry.
“This exhibit demonstrates to the world how much has been accomplished, and shows that BAC and IMI are ready to lead into the future,” says BAC President and IMI Co-Chair John J. Flynn.
IMI will offer lectures and hands-on design seminars during the run of the exhibition, which ends April 4, 2004.