Three workshops, 16 architectural firms and one year are what it took to transform a room inside a former chocolate factory in Berlin’s vibrant Kreuzberg district to become the home to the FAB Architectural Bureau Berlin, a multi-purpose exhibition format initiated by Italian porcelain tile brand Fiandre. Apart from creating an area for innovative ceramic products, FAB – which already has locations in Milan and Castellarano – is meant to be a ‘platform for cultural dissemination, promoting initiatives where the central theme of architecture is tackled via an interdisciplinary approach.’
Led by architect Volker Halbach of local firm blauraum and curator Sally Below, the hand-picked group of creatives – all hailing from Germany – was divided into three teams and successively worked on the design of the space. ‘We let them be very free,’ says Fiandre´s chief executive officer CEO Federica Minozzi. ‘Apart from the themes for the workshops, we didn’t give them any specific directions. We didn’t even tell them which products to use.’ And that’s exactly what made this process so unique and unusual, according to Halbach and Below, even for the architects involved.
At the opening – which coincided with the Day of Architecture 2016 – we sat down with Volker Halbach to discuss the project’s approach and outcome.
Why did choose to take such a collaborative approach?
VOLKER HALBACH: First we were asked as blauraum to help curate and build up a FAB gallery here in Berlin. Our first thought was if you decide as Fiandre to go to Berlin, the capital of Germany, maybe it’s better for the communication of the company to make a story out of it. A ‘making of’, like a movie. So we convinced Fiandre that working with different architects, with different skills, in three workshops with, again, different topics, would make for an exciting project with a story to tell.
That was the idea and Fiandre said: ‘OK, let’s try it!’ That involves a lot of trust because you don’t know what the results will be. We are lucky that after one year this is the result. It’s all about communication, it’s about bringing people together.
How did the selection process of the architects go?
We started first with a selection of the topics of the workshops: light structures, interactive surfaces and flexible surfaces. Then we looked at what is already in the German market since after all, Fiandre wanted to go to Germany. We started to bring architects from all over Germany to Berlin, all with their own specialities. Each group would have one local architect, while the rest were from outside of the city. The also needed to match of course, be able to work together, but that turned out great.
How can we find the different topics – the different layers – back in the final space?
Starting with the most recently added layer, the flexible surfaces – the curtains – now function as surfaces for projections. The outcome of the second workshop, with the topic of interactive surfaces, are the different beamers and the sounds you hear. This group had to work with the first layer, which is the multifunctional structure made from white stoneware that integrates itself in the room like a magic carpet. The whole project was similar to a relay race. I’ve identified these layers but without this explanation, it might be difficult to see the separate contributions of the different project groups.
Fiandre lets you be very free in the material selection. Why in the end were these materials chosen?
To be honest, this was one thing that was out of my hands. It was really up to the groups. In each workshop we had Fiandre’s input, so they explained the properties of their materials and how they were produced. The first group already used the Fiandre tiles because they were surprised about the material’s range of possibility. They made this kind of folded structure with it.
At the opening there was an exhibition in the space. Can you tell a bit more about that?
The projections show the works of the architects that contributed to the project. They invested their time, so we wanted to use this moment to give them a platform. There is also a making of video on show. At the end of the space, you can continue on to a next room which functions as a Fiandre showroom. There is a ‘magic cube’ inside, showing the company’s various architectural surfaces.
How do you envision the space to evolve from here forward?
As a gallery space for people living in Berlin. We are working on an event schedule which will focus on movies and architecture.
Photos Felix Löchner Architekturfotografie, courtesy of Fiandre Architectural Surfaces
Project initiator Fiandre Architectural Surfaces
Contributors Ruth Berktold,Yes Architecture, München; Nils Buschmann, RobertNeun Architekten, Berlin; Laura Fogarasi-Ludloff, Ludloff + Ludloff Architekten, Berlin; Yoraco González, Serein Konzeptkunst und Mikroarkitektur, Berlin; Ludwig Heimbach, ludwig heimbach architektur, Berlin; Eva Maria Lang, Knerer und Lang Architekten, Dresden/Munich; Sylvia Leydecker, 100% interior, Cologne; Chris Middleton, KINZO, Berlin; Claudia Meixner, Meixner Schlüter Wendt Architekten, Frankfurt/Main; Ritz Ritzer, bogevischs buero, Munich; Christiane Sauer, Formade / Lüling Sauer Architekten, Berlin; Jan Theissen, AMUNT, Aachen/Stuttgart; Petra Vondenhof-Anderhalten, Anderhalten Architekten, Berlin; Detlef Weitz, chezweitz Szenografie, Berlin, and Carsten Wiewiorra, wiewiorra hopp schwark architekten, Berlin.