In response to the inconvenient truth that raw materials are becoming increasingly scarce, BC architects & studies & materials takes on architectural and building work that, as the current exhibition’s title Same Same but Different suggests, the firm considers to be related to normative practices but with a sustainable edge. Applying and adapting traditional and local knowledge about construction methods and materials to contemporary social and economic conditions, at Z33, BC demonstrates a way of designing and building that works with — and for — the earth rather than against it.
Belgian practice BC operates as BC architects, BC studies and BC materials — three legal entities that accurately describe BC’s hybrid approach. It is by combining design thinking with material research, fabrication and innovation that the practice works toward creating systemic change in the construction industry. Its focus on often overlooked and under-designed construction processes places the firm squarely in an emerging class of architects working on reconsidering the normative materiality of our built environments.
BC architects situates their practice as part of a long tradition of urban mining, which started in ancient times when builders would use fallen stone buildings as quarries for construction materials. What is different about the way that BC architects works are the social and economic contexts in which they are applying these methods of circular building.
With the exhibition Same Same but Different, BC architects & studies & materials presents three recent projects that were each created using an alternative mode of material extraction: geo-, bio- and urban-sourcing. Alongside each of the three projects is a display of construction materials and comprehensive descriptions of the harvesting and building processes.
Anchoring the geo-sourcing thematic grouping is BC architects & studies’ off-grid vacation home Woodstock, which has three structural cores that were built using stone harvested from the forested landscape that surrounds the cottage.
To demonstrate urban-sourcing as an architectural process, visitors are directed to BC architects’ USQUARE renovation for which the architects use the site — including the demolished buildings that sit on it — as an active quarry from which to acquire construction materials.
In Arles, BC architects & materials is collaborating with Atelier LUMA and Assemble to create a studio space for LUMA that makes use of several new materials that are being developed using bioregional waste. To bio-source the construction materials for the project, BC materials is teaming up with LUMA to undertake a research and development process that they hope to have multiple applications in the future.
The exhibition ends with a space curated by students in the postgraduate Building Beyond Borders program at Universiteit Hasselt in which they contemplate the possibilities of urban harvesting. Visitors are asked to contemplate how they might actively participate in their cities, not just as places in which they live and consume resources but as places where they can produce their own resources.
The exhibition Same Same but Different exemplifies modes of extraction that allow for new, thoughtful architecture without further depleting the earth. Throughout the show, BC architects shows us what a future might look like if we immediately begin course-correcting our relationship with the earth in radical and meaningful ways and think of methods for material extraction that are not just less harmful but also regenerative.
The exhibition Same Same but Different, curated by BC architects & materials & studies, is on view at Z33 until August 7, 2022.
At Z33, BC architects & studies & materials presents alternatives to extractive architectures.