Between the Making and the Built

Day 5 – 21st May

Altivole, Resana, Loreggia and Venice

It is the final day of the 2018 Architour and we have an exciting day ahead. The group boarded the buses for the final time and began the journey to one last Scarpa project and two brick factories. It was an incredible day of being exposed to great built craft and the process of making.

The first visit of the day and the final building visit for the tour was to the Brion Vega Cemetery by Carlo Scarpa located in San Vito d’ Altivole near Treviso. Scarpa began designing the addition to an existing cemetery in 1968 and completed the work in 1977. Several discrete elements comprise the Brion family burial site; a sloped enclosing wall, two entrances, a small chapel, two covered burial areas, a dense cypress grove, a lawn, and a private meditation pavilion. Scarpa believed the cemetery should be a beautiful garden and aspired for the project to explore how death might be approached in both a social and civic way. He believed that the project would be more beautiful as it aged.

The site was approached through a tree lined street with a view of the enclosing concrete wall emerging beyond a vineyard. Upon entering through the sloped wall, we were taken on a carefully orchestrated journey through a series of beautiful rooms and gardens. The cemetery is a constructed concrete landscape of platforms, stairs and profiled walls which meander through gardens. The concrete seemingly emerges from the gardens to form reflection pools, planters and seats. The site has the feeling of a formalised ruin, with the walls internally eroding in areas to capture focussed internal views of the burial grounds. Each element of the cemetery was crafted and detailed beautifully with elements that allowed people to engage and appreciate the surrounding landscape. It was wonderful to watch the group completely captivated by the incredible detail of the work. The cemetary was a fantastic ‘final project’ to visit for the tour.

The second visit of the day took us to the glass brick factory – Poesia, where we were taken on a tour through the production process to see a number of their glass products being made. The company was formed in 1983 and supplies handmade cast venetian glass products in a range of different sizes and colours to Europe, Australia, America and Asia. We were welcomed to the facility by Pietro, Kayla, Marina and Gareth who explained the making process as comprising the following key stages:

  • Raw materials of san silica and metal oxides are melted in the furnace. Depending on the size of the brick the temperature of heating varies (approximately between 1300 – 1400 degrees celsius).
  • Following the heating the colour is mixed into the heated glass.
  • The molten glass mixture is transferred into a standard or custom mould (generally concrete or iron).
  • The units in their moulds are finally transferred to the cooling oven where they sit. Depending on their size the time required to sit varies (approximately 2-3 days). The temperature of the cooling oven drops the units from 800 degrees celcius to an ambient temperature.
  • The moulds are finally removed to expose the final glass unit and post processing occurs. This may include painting or sandblasting of the units.

The handmade glass brick process relies on having a consistent team working on the project as this is important to achieve consistency. Currently 20 people work at the factory and teams consist of approximately 5 people to deliver a project. The factory has the capacity to manufacture between 800-1000 bricks per day. We were very privileged to be given the opportunity to see the artisans making the bricks having been invited into the workshop.

The final visit for the day and and the trip was especially special. We were taken to Fornace S. Anselmo (known as San Selmo in Australia) where the clay bricks are made. S. Anselmo is a 5th generation company, established in 1903. In comparison to the glass brick factory visited earlier, S. Anselmo produces anywhere between 120,000 -140,000 bricks per day. The group was welcomed and taken through the factory to understand the process of manufacturing the standard clay bricks.

  • Excavation of raw materials
  • Clay preparation and cleaning
  • Extrusion process (moulded, brick by end or extruded)
  • Drying process
  • Firing process
  • Packaging and delivery

Being positioned as a manufacturer for architectural projects, special bricks are a key component of the company. We were taken to the area where these are handmade and were offered the opportunity to make a brick. It was a particularly amazing experience to watch the incredible craft involved in the process and the great pride that is taken in making each brick.

Following the tour of the manufacturing process we were taken to the laboratory. In order to comply with necessary standards it is important that the products have a means of being tested. S. Anselmo has the in house ability to test and certify their products on site through their laboratory.

The tour ended and we were spoilt with a wonderful lunch hosted at the family’s home. Following the lunch we boarded the bus for the final time and made our way to Venice, each departing our own separate way. There was a sense of great appreciation shared amongst the group. The trip not only a wonderful opportunity to travel and see the work of great architects, but connected the group with a broader Australian architecture network.

Stay tuned for posts in the coming days which will capture the Brickworks activities at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale!

Hannah Slater is a practicing Architect currently working in Sydney with Neeson Murcutt Architects. She completed her studies in Architecture and Interior Design at the Queensland University of Technology. Following her education she spent time in Johannesburg, South Africa, working with Peter Rich Architects on a number of significant cultural projects.

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