A BRICKYARD DECONSTRUCTION

 

the redevelopment of brickyard 'Elden' and the Meinerswijk landscape

 

Steffie de Gaetano

'Industrial Past & Future'

Eindhoven University of Technology

7 July 2017

 

dr. ir. Jos Bosman

ir. Marcel Musch

Geert Das Msc. 

ir. Wouter Hilhorst

 

Summary

This Architecture master graduation thesis falls under the studio ‘Industrial Past & Future’, which dealt with the complex issue of the redevelopment of industrial heritage. Personally I was drawn to the less known sector of the brick industry, as a result of its connection to architecture and to the Dutch identity. Due to the rapid disappearing of this typology of heritage in Noord-Brabant, the background research did not conclude with a location to continue with in the design phase of the graduation. With the knowledge I had built up during the first months of research I looked outside of the region for a location which would inspire my design. Brickyard ‘Elden’ in Meinerswijk, Arnhem, was my final choice, because of the powerful and beautiful oven building, the stunning landscape, and the high potential of the location. The aim of my graduation project was to redevelop both the building and the natural flood plain park. 

 

 

After WWII, more than 20% of the factories of the Grote Rivieren area were destroyed and 50% of them were damaged. Materials and technical installations where robbed by the occupiers. The Dutch stone industry had to start over again. Only after 1949 the industry started to grow again, factories and technical machinery were restored. Higher wages and better working conditions, caused people to return to work in the stone factories again. The ‘boom’ in housing construction led to the massive production of bricks, but capital shortage caused production to surpass sales causing overproduction, which brought price levels down. The stone industry’s production never had been higher before, but regulating the production to the sales was a problem with which the stone industry continued to struggle all along. In 1990, in the whole Netherlands there were 70 stone factories still active.

 

 

Before the 19th century, stone factories did not have factory characteristics. The location where a clay pit was located was also the place where the brick or tiles where formed, dried and baked in a simple field oven. After a couple of seasons of  roductiveness, one would dismantle the temporary structures and move elsewhere. Once factories started to settle for longer time periods, the production process gained a structure. Mechanization of the stone industry regarded all steps of the production process. For the excavation of the clay pits, drag-lines where used. This allowed to go beneath the ground water level. Locomotives where still used, but where powered by diesel. After WWII, trucks where more commonly used. Two of the most important machines introduced with mechanization for forming the bricks where the ‘vormbakpers’, which pressed the clay into a form using a lever, and the ‘strengpers’, which would press out a clay strand and cut it off with a special thread, with these methods, uniform bricks could be created. The drying process was also mechanized after WWII. The wet bricks were placed on racks and would be dried in around 24 hours. Intern transportation was fastened with the use of carts on rails.

 

 

The Meinerswijk landscape can be divided into different areas and elements. Going from North-East to North-West we have the perimeter delimited by the sandy river banks of the Nederrijn. In the northern part of the terrain we have an area with a higher dynamics: some small scale housing, and two old brickyards. On the southern part of Meinerswijk there is an area with low dynamics, which is left to spontaneous nature development. Crossing these two areas there is the Green River, an area with low vegetation, available for the overflow of the river in case of high water. Nowadays Meinerswijk has become a valuable nature park for the city of Arnhem. In 1988 the municipality of the city decided to make Meinerswijk a free and accessible nature area, connected to the city with a bike and pedestrian infrastructure. The landscape has many infiltration lakes, clay and sand pits filled with water, which are encircled by a rich alluvial forest, willow forest, hardwood forest, swamp areas, shrubs and grassland.

 

 

The construction is made of wood, and rests brick base pillars on a sand floor used to insulation. The oven has 30 barrel vault brick furnaces. Some of the internal brick walls are fireproof while other older walls have glazed bricks in different colours due to the high temperatures of the oven. On ground level, in between the tunnels openings are located, there are also heating shafts in the roof of the vault, which allowed to measure the temperature in the oven from the space above, as well as to add fuel in the ovens. The condition of the building is overall good. The brickwork in the tunnels needs some restoration and cleaning. The wooden roof construction needs to be reinforced and stabilized, and the temporary wooden support removed. 

 

The oven building of brickyard ‘Elden’ is strong and imposing in its monumentality. Due to its large overhanging roof it is sturdy on the ground, with a heavy triangular shape. The brick oven is a massive pyramid with the top cut off. The wooden construction on which the roof rest is light in comparison to the rest, and slightly tilts it off the ground.

 

 

Overall the building has become an iconic part of the landscape of Meinerswijk. The stone industry typology is strongly present and recognizable in brickyard ‘Elden’, and was the most important feature I wanted to maintain in the transformation to hotel and restaurant. While changing the function of the building and making the necessary alterations, I did not want to lose or overshadow the original function as brick oven. The modifications to the building enhance existing characteristics, like the thick oven mass, the large empty space of the first floor, the roof shape and construction. The transformations can be seen as an additional layer, and can be distinguished as adjustments done a posteriori, either due to material choice, or chosen form. Most importantly, while giving a new life to the building, both the brickyard typology and the transformations must be simple and immediate to read.

 

 

The architectural follies scattered in the landscape create pinpointed places in nature where people can walk towards immersing themselves in nature. Following the follies would lead through the different types of landscape and enjoy various views of nature:
woods, plains, river, lake, swamp. The whole experience is defined by a metaphysical layer with a sacred character. An antonym of sacred space is the profane, which pertains to the worldly, the everyday. In man´s city life nature has become a rare experience. Sacred spaces offer, among other, the opportunity to take time off from the chaotic everyday life, and offer peace and calm. Nature can be experienced as a place to flee from the city, and therefore creates the opportunity for sacred spaces.