Constantin Brodzki - Constantin Brodzki
Constantin Brodzki (26 October 1924), born and raised in Italy, Rome and Finland by his Belgian mother and Polish father, moved to Belgium in 1938, right before the Second World War, where he started off his career as an architect. He is mostly known for his Brutalist architecture and for his prefabricated modules using concrete in fluid and organic shapes.
Life and career
It was during the Second World War that he started his education at La Cambre in Brussels, obtaining a degree in 1948. Brodzki confesses that he didn't learn a lot of practical information during his education there and often clashed with his tutor Charles Van Nueten.
After graduating at La Cambre, Brodzki started his internship working on the Headquarters of the United Nations in the United States. He became part of a team of 500 specialists, working on a design by Oscar Niemeyer, which gave him access to many different stages of the design and construction. According to Brodzki this was a very important aspect going forward in his career as an architect. "It was heaven", he says in an interview with Wallpaper: "Working on what, at the time, was the most modern building in the world". As an intern he received mostly smaller tasks, but he learned a lot by observing and questioning the other architects, model builders, designers and engineers, soaking up as much information as he could for six months.
It was the pragmatic way of working which he discerned during his internship in the United States that turned out to be vital for his later success in Belgium. "The most important thing I learned in the US is that when they start to work on something, they begin with the idea that they don’t know everything, but want to find out," Brodzki smiles. "In Belgium, they start work assuming they know it all." By working out each stage of the construction beforehand, using models and drawings, many problems are avoided during the construction itself. You can see this influence on his later realisations, such as the CBR Building.
After his six-month internship in the United States, Brodzki returned to Belgium eager to put his newly gained experience into practice, but was quickly disappointed. "The tragedy was that when I came back, I was 15 years ahead of Belgium in terms of design and methodology," he says. "So for ten years, I had to bide my time."
In 1958 he was selected to construct the pavilion for the Congolese fauna for the Expo 58 in Brussels. He saw this as an opportunity to showcase his thoughts on fluid and organic shapes within architecture. "You will find no straight lines in nature, so why should I design a straight pavilion for the expo?", he says in an interview with De Tijd.
One of his first clients was Bandin who brought him in contact with René Célis, the right hand of Vanhoof, who was the former great director of CBR. Coincidentally Brodzki and Célis shared many values within the realm architecture and construction and became friends quickly. This shared vision created a meaningful collaboration between the CBR and Brodzki, who were looking for an architect to build their new headquarters. Both parties were still relatively unknown during this time. This collaboration lead towards Brodzki's most published realisation, which put him on the map as an architect: the CBR Building. It was this building where Brodzki finally had the resources and opportunity to practice the methodology he was taught in the US and integrate it with his thoughts on organic shapes within architecture. It resulted into the first construction ever to consist out of prefabricated concrete modules with fluid shapes. According to Brodzki this building would have never happened if it wasn't for the mutual trust between client and architect, allowing Brodzki the access to a factory fully dedicated towards the construction of these modules and two temporary test buildings on an industrial park.
By the end of the '70s the influence Brodzki had generated throughout Brussels was visible. An increased number of buildings using concrete elements with organic shapes were erected, some examples are the ROB supermarket and the town hall of Oudergem. Apart from these larger constructions Brodzki also realised a dozen private residences during his career and some renovations.
A new style
Constantin Brodzki never understood the modernist tendency to solely use concrete as a construction material or cast it into straight lines and shapes. He acknowledged that concrete is a liquid in its original state and therefore had a lot untapped potential in its formal freedom. This reasoning was visible in some of his realisations such as the Expo 58 pavilion and the CBR building, which he saw as a rational architectural experiment on working with fluid shapes. He created a new style in Belgium which is now called the "CBR-style", referring to facades made out of prefabricated concrete modules in organic shapes.
In 1980 the CBR Building was the only Belgian project selected for the 1979 MoMA exhibition - 'Transformation in Modern Architecture between 1960 and 1980'. The catalogue mentioned the building as an "important step in the development of modernism in the world" and celebrated it for setting a precedent in expressive facades using prefabricated concrete modules.
• Cultural centre Casino, Houthalen-Helchteren, Limburg (1953)
• Weekend stay Van Pachterbeek, Sint-Genesius-Rode, Flemish Brabant (1954)
• Cinematek, Brussels (1962-2006)
• Design Center in the Ravensteingallery, Brussels (1963)
• CBR Building, Watermaal-Bosvoorde, Brussels (1970)
• Generali's office, Watermaal-Bosvoorde, Brussels (1976)
• Residence Klenowicz, Sint-Genesius-Rode, Flemish Brabant (1976)
• Swift I, Terhulpen, Brussels (1983)
• Swift II, Terhulpen, Brussels (1988)
- "Interview Constantin Brodzki: 'We vergeten maar al te vaak dat beton geen hard materiaal is'". architectura.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 2020-05-10.
- "Iconisch Brussels kantoorgebouw krijgt make-over". De Tijd (in Dutch). 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2020-05-10.
- "Brodzki, Constantin". inventaris.onroerenderfgoed.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 2020-05-10.
- "Oral history Stynen 2018" (in Dutch). Vlaams Architectuurinstituut. Archived from the original on 29 May 2020.
- "New brutalism: Constantin Brodzki's Brussels HQ is up for renovation by Fosbury & Sons". Wallpaper*. 2018-06-28. Retrieved 2020-05-10.
- Gauin, Thibaud (2018). "Constantin Brodzki". CLARA. 5: 260.
- Belgium, Docomomo. "Immeuble CBR". Retrieved 2020-05-19.