Bricktopia is the winner Project in eme3 “Build-it” category. It proposes the construction of a complex vaulted geometry using tile in the courtyard of the old thread factory Fabra i Coats in Barcelona. This intervention configures a new square where different activities can be performed, both under the building and around it. It includes bathing public spaces and sundecks, a bar and a stage for enjoying the summer 2013.
It is a vaulted structure made of brick using a traditional construction technique called tile-vault (or "Catalan vault"). It sets out the contemporary validity of this traditional system, born in the Mediterranean and widely used in various parts of the world for centuries. It is economical, sustainable, with formal and functional versatility and nowadays it is also offering the possibility of being built in developing countries for roofs, stairs, drainage systems, etc. Unlike the construction that can be seen these days, this project aims to restore the expertise and imagination of the building hands. “Bricktopia” has been built by excellent builders who have made an unprecedented craftsmanship. The challenge that requires good layout in tile vault construction, specially with a complex shape like this one, suggests the work as an opposite to the mechanical work.
This pavilion collects the material tradition and the constructive knowledge of tile vaulting and combines them with contemporary computational tools. This project, developed in the enclosed area of a nineteenth-century factory made of brick, uses the same material raising a new topography in the old courtyard. However, it is opposed to the industrial construction offering a concave and protected space that links the origins of all cultures.
The project “Brick-topia” was based on a combination of the latest structural analysis and form-finding computational tools with traditional, cheap and effective construction techniques. It is the result of innovation to fight against budget and time. The pavilion takes as reference and inspiration the prototype built by the Block Research Group at the ETH in Zürich, but “Brick-topia” is the first free-form “Catalan vault” at such a scale. Increasing the size, opening it to the public and the constraints of time and budget, meant necessary innovation in the construction process, as well as meticulous structural analysis.
As “Bricktopia” is a pilot project which makes this traditional technique work to its limits, its implementation has required the expansion of the team, which has been enlarged with Paula López Barba and Josep Brazo Ramírez. The construction has also required the effort of Eme3 festival that gives support to young talented people to carry out their projects, the sponsorship of the companies that contributed with workforce and materials and the help of volunteers and students of architecture.
If you would like to know more about this project, you can read our paper "Brick-.topia", the thin-tile vaulted pavilion, awarded best case study of 2014 by the Journal Case Studies of Structural Engineering.