This article is part of our new "Material Focus" series, which asks architects to elaborate on the thought process behind their material choices and sheds light on the steps required to get buildings actually built.
The CKK Jordanki (Jordanki Cultural and Convention Center) by Fernando Menis is located in the historical center of Torun. It respects the shorter height of the surrounding buildings to preserve the views of the river and better fit the natural environment that surrounds it. The building was designed to have a more natural look, like a 'rock' that marks the transition from the urban plot to the park that surrounds it. In this interview we spoke with Fernando Menis who explained in depth how the selection of project materials contributed to the design process, helped in the inclusion of universal accessibility, and the project’s construction.
What were the main materials used in the project?
FM: Concrete and "picado." "Picado," coming from the Spanish word for chipped, is a new material, certified by both Spain and Poland’s Institute of Construction Research, and consists of mixing concrete with other materials, and breaking it up after assembly, to achieve certain acoustic effects. In the case of CKK Jordanki the “chipped” effect has been achieved by mixing concrete with recycled red bricks or with volcanic stone.
In terms of materials, what were your main sources of inspiration and influence in selecting them?
FM: The greatest source of inspiration has undoubtedly been the historic city center of Torun, the city where CKK Jordanki is located. Torun, a UNESCO heritage city, has a strong Gothic legacy and its façades are almost all red brick.
Can you describe how decisions on materials were considered within the conceptual design?
FM: The essential concern was to obtain an excellent acoustic container since the focus of the project was a Concert Hall. As such we have been concerned about materials that could give good results in terms of reflection, distribution and sound absorption. In this sense, the "picado" made with brick complements the geometry of the Concert Hall and reflects and distributes the sound very well. We also always try to make the most of local companies and resources, so in addition to the concrete, we used waste bricks from a local company (Ceramsus). Finally, in terms of materiality and from a contemporary interpretation of a traditional material, we wanted to reference the Gothic legacy of the city of Torun, whose red brick is omnipresent: in CKK Jordanki the "picado" red brick permeates the interior as well as appearing in the facade, in an expressive contrast with the white concrete that was also used there.
What were the advantages of these materials during construction?
FM: The concrete provided by CEMEX Poland and the bricks provided by Ceramsus are both locally produced materials, so that in addition to helping to boost the local economy, their prices were very affordable. Moreover, the brick we used was waste, we recycled it creatively, giving it a new form and function. The "picado", acts as a tool within the acoustic system we designed for the building.
Did you face any challenges due to your material selection?
FM: The word challenge is very fitting when discussing this project because everything is pure invention and innovation. We wanted to try new methods for acoustics, to demonstrate that it is possible to create a new type of auditorium without wood, to demystify the baroque. Then all these challenges were conquered when the new concrete was approved in official laboratories and certified in Spain and Poland.
Were there any other possible materials considered for the project? If so, how would the design have changed?
FM: From the outset, when I first visited Torun and discovered that the essence on which that historic city was built was the red brick, I decided to use that material mixed with concrete. In other words, the end path had been chosen from the beginning, although the idea was developed and perfected along the way, with the different tests and trials that we were carrying out.
How did you research and choose the suppliers or contractors for the materials used in the project?
FM: When I arrived in Poland, I looked into how they worked there, what customs they had, what they were best for, what the most competitive prices were, after taking all of this into account, we designed the construction system, always according to the constructive culture of Poland.
*CKK Jordanki recently received the 2016 CEMEX Building Award in the Universal Accessibility category for the international team.