Zwarthout participates to AA Material Experiences

Pieter Weijnen, founder of Zwarthout answers to AA’s questions.

Could you present in a few words your company and your latest projects?

Zwarthout Shou Sugi Ban is a small Dutch enterprise; working European-wide, founded by Pieter Weijnen, a former architect. We burn wood, a work craft, based on traditional Japanese techniques. We deliver for very small and large projects, like the Canalproject in Wijnegem by Axel Vervoordt , some villa’s in Barcelona and The Hague, and other housing projects in Belgium and The Netherlands. We also work on very small projects like charred urns and furniture. Our clients approach us with new questions all the time, to which we always want to find an answer. We also look for new possibilities such as furniture.

You are taking part of MATERIAL EXPERIENCES, during the Venice Biennale of architecture. The biennale is a key event for architects from all over the world. How do you perceive it and understand this year’s theme « Reporting from the front », decided by Alejandro Aravena?

In my previous life as an architect, we architects, often chose ‘the visual appeal’ of an object. Our commissioners wanted materials that would last for decades and would not age. But by using inorganic materials to defy the natural ageing effects of time one creates nothing less but chemical timebombs. The best materials are not only organic but age in a poetic and beautiful way. The most beautiful materials show their history, the people that passed; the weather that left its print on the building and giving it its patina.

Could you tell us, in a few words, the challenges that you will address in Venice? How important are they to architects?

Please keep in mind we are just passing by, generations after us will follow and notice our heritage. Let it be a positive one and not a pile of waste, that’s our aim. We do this by enclosing this vision as a first rule in our program.

The same counts for the energy. As no other, us builders, have the possibility to change the program and only build neutral, or even positive. Can we really tell our grandchildren we knew, but did not want to take position?

How do you perceive, in the coming years, the evolution of your work with architects?

Architects became more and more interested in the philosophy of the Wabi Sabi, the beauty of aging and the common. We can assist them by choosing better products that are beautiful and leave no footprint.


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