Precedent Research: Presentation

With all the information collected I have created a graphic illustrated digital presentation, which includes text and images/diagrams to illustrate the history and present day of The Reichstag, Berlin.

My critical reflection on the task

I was excited at the challenge of researching everything about The Reichstag but was unaware of how much time I would actually need to spend.  I now have a much better understanding of this process and picking out the most important parts to put in the digital presentation has taught me to take one step at a time and enjoy the journey.  I thought it was important to show as much history on The Reichstag in images as it was to talk about the redesign, I am totally in love with the buildings history and hope to visit it one day.

My evaluation of the research

After looking at all four precedent designs, The Reichstag looked the most interesting to research.  I was not disappointed.  The history behind the building and the journey both the building and the German people have been through is fascinating.  Learning about the Architect Norman Foster was also very inspiring, I have thoroughly enjoyed finding out information that led him to design in this way. Having spent a lot of hours researching and putting together a presentation has given a much better understanding and appreciation of what there is to learn and how much time can be taken with it.

Vernacular Architecture & Materiality

Do some research into the ‘vernacular style’ of your own local area, see what you can find out about local building types, techniques and materials.

My research starts in my home village of Stoford, Somerset. Here we are surrounded by residential homes, farmhouses, estate houses, listed buildings, railway and bridges, an obelisk, follies and a school. The buildings are made from local hamstone with welsh slate roofs or red brick and clay tile roofs.

Return to the site, assess and record.

Cedar Falls is a Georgian Manor building located in the county of Somerset, in the Quantock hills, set on 44 acres of wooded landscape, with lakes and beautiful gardens.

Fig.1 Aerial photograph of Cedar Falls site location

The location of my chosen interior space within the building is on the ground floor, the first room on the left as you enter the main door.

Fig.2 Cedar Falls Health Farm, front of main building
Fig.3 Sketch plan of the interior space, sitting room is highlighted in relation to other rooms within the building.

The overall approximate height and lengths of the room are 20ft x 20ft. It is traditionally used as a sitting room for guests to spend time in relaxing, reading or playing board games. There is no sign of technology is this room, plenty of board games and jigsaw puzzles to keep you amused, much as it would have been traditionally used.

The main house doesn’t have any buildings opposite or to each of the sides, but there are two buildings behind that are used to home the staff that work on site. The only time you see the buildings are if you are staying in one of the rooms at the back of the building or when you are walking to your car in the rear carpark. They would have been built in the 1950’s possibly, but definitely not Georgian. The lines of sight in the room are clear, three large Georgian windows let sunlight flood in and the furniture sits no higher than the first pane of glass.


Fig.1 Aerial photograph of Cedar Falls site location (accessed 3.6.19)

Fig.2 Cedar Falls Health Farm (accessed 3.6.19)

Fig.3 Sketch plan of the interior of Cedar Falls

Exercise 2.3: Innovative Materials

Select one new material, that you consider being innovative, i.e. new, inventive, ingenious or that is at the cutting edge of new technologies, sustainability and material processes. After a little research I found cigarette butt bricks, researchers at Australia’s RMIT University have found that fired-clay bricks made with cigarette butts can save energy and help solve a global littering problem. (Matroos, 2016)

The disposal and littering of cigarette butts (CBs) is a serious environmental problem. Trillions of cigarettes are produced every year worldwide, resulting in millions of tonnes of toxic waste being dumped into the environment in the form of cigarette butts. As CBs have poor biodegradability, it can take many years for them to break down. (Mohajerani et al, 2016). The research found that using butts in the production of clay-fired bricks trapped the pollutants inside, preventing things like arsenic, cadmium, chromium and nickel from leaching into the environment. Countering 6 trillion cigarettes annually sounds like a losing battle, but the team believes it is achievable. Interestingly, it’s not just a case of stashing the butts somewhere out of sight: bricks made with cigarette butts can actually have superior properties than those without. According to the team, the energy used to fire bricks is reduced by more than half when butts are added, and the final product makes for better insulation. It’s a potential win-win: butt-bricks could help the environment by reducing toxic waste, making brick-firing more energy efficient and saving power in home heating. (Irving, 2016)

The following properties are valid for bricks with 10% cigarette butt content:

  1. Density of cigarette butt Bricks is less than that of conventional bricks without cigarette butts.
  2. Compressive strength of cigarette butt bricks is less than the conventional bricks by more than 85%.
  3. Water absorption increases almost linearly with the increase of cigarette butt content.
  4. Cigarette butt bricks have low porosity and shrinkage.
  5. Bricks are light and have good insulation capability.
  6. The percentage of cigarette butt addition is specified based on the type of project or works in which cigarette butt bricks are used. This is because different amount of cigarette butt in bricks modify brick properties.
  7. Tests have been conducted on different replacement percentages like 1.5, 2.5, 7.5, and 10 percent. Each replacement quantity results in different physical properties. As the quantity of cigarette butts is increased, its detrimental effects on the bricks would be more obvious.

The advantages include

  1. It gets that waste out of the environment.
  2. It makes bricks cheaper.
  3. Less energy-intensive bricks can be produced.
  4. The energy needed to fire bricks can be cut by up to 58%.
  5. Lighter and better insulator bricks are produced; meaning they could help cut household cooling and heating demands.
  6. When the cigarette butts are fired in the bricks, the heavy metals and other pollutants are trapped and immobilised in the solid block so they cannot leach. 
  7. Bricks shrinkage, porosity, and thermal properties are improved.
  8.  Cigarette butts can be placed in bricks without any fear of leaching or contamination.
  9. Cigarette butt bricks are an alternative to conventional bricks. (Hamakareem, s.d)

The process is fairly simple. First, cigarette butts are collected through recycling programs. They’re disinfected at 105 degrees Celsius (or 221 degrees Fahrenheit) for a day, then stored in plastic bags. These butts are mixed with a typical sand-clay blend, then fired into bricks at 1,050 Celsius, or about 1,922 Fahrenheit.

“The high temperature in the firing process changes the chemical characteristics of the materials; materials are combined, and harmful chemicals are immobilized through the fixation process,” Mohajerani explains via email. “The results from our comprehensive leachate study show that the concentration of heavy metals in the leachate were in trace amounts that did not exceed the regulatory limits specified by USEPA and EPAV.” (Wilson, 2016)


Matroos (2016) Science direct (accessed 23.5.19)

Michael Irving, (2016) New Atlas (accessed 23.5.19)

Hamakareem (date unknown) The Constructor (accessed 23.5.19)

Mark Wilson (2016) Fast Company (accessed 23.5.19)


Fig.1 and Fig.2 Bricks, Cubes, and Beams produced from materials mixed with cigarette butts (accessed 23.5.19)

Materials: The Basics

Fig.1 A period sofa in the sitting room at Cedar Falls

Above is one of the sofa’s in the sitting room at Cedar Falls, the site that I visited at the beginning of this assignment. There is a repeating pattern on the fabric of a peacock and floral design. Looking at the design it reminds me of patterns created by William Morris, inspired by nature with the leaves, vines and peacocks. It has a silky feel to it and I hazard a guess that it’s likely to be damask, maybe woven with satin. The fringe tassels finish the sofa glamorously. There are four wooden posts along the back edge of the sofa and possibly the ends fold out to make a day bed.

Fig.2 Cedar Falls sitting room rug

Here is one of the many rugs on the sitting room floor in Cedar Falls. Again it has a floral inspired by nature pattern, typical of the Victorian era and likely to made from 100% wool.

Fig.3 Cornice and stencilling in the sitting room, Cedar Falls

The cornice and stencilling above is around the sitting room at Cedar Falls, typical patterns resembling the Georgian era. Intricate moulding would have been made from plaster and these mouldings can be re-created today.

Fig.4 Curtain drapes surrounding a window in the sitting room, Cedar Falls

Early Georgian curtains and fabrics were often heavy and dense, silk and cotton chintzes being popular materials for making drapes. By 1770 the furnishing of fabrics was being revolutionised by Britains industrial development. Fabrics were being printed, cotton chintzes were introduced that were cheap and washable. By 1820, blues, lilacs and fawns were very much in fashion. By the late 18th century care was being taken to match both curtains and other fabrics in the room.

In 1840, the Workwoman’s Guide advised, that in bedrooms, ‘window curtains should always accord with the hanging on the bed, both in colour and material, as also in shape‘ (Georgian Group Guides s.d)


Fig.1 – 4 My own photograph’s in the sitting room at Cedar Falls.


Georgian Group Guides (accessed 9.5.20)

Materials – in Depth

Find 5 examples of designers, architects or artists whose work aligns with the ‘Truth to Materials’ phrase.

Shigeru Ban is known as the sustainable paper architect, famously known to provide immediate emergency relief to victims of natural disaster. Behind the cardboard aesthetics lie deep humanitarianism and high-tech aspirations, it is this environmental and socially concerned dimension that wins the hearts and minds of the fans of Ban. (Williams, 2015)

Ban is known for his active humanitarian work across the world. In 2018 he met with refugees in Kenya’s Kalobeyei refugee settlement and examined the structures that are currently housing thousands of displaced people, in response to the brief, he proposed a range of houses made from different materials, including paper tubes, timber, mud bricks, and interlocking soil blocks, making him an architect of Truth to Materials. (Stevens, 2018)

Tadao Ando is a Japenese architect who incorporates into architecture numerous ‘scenes’ in the process of giving direct expression to materials, simplifying forms, and pursuing an integrated style. He looks to introduce nature into a man-made order and to create a place where encounters between human beings or between a human being and a material object may take place. One example is the Wrightwood 659 exhibition space in Chicago.(Peluso,2018) Here, the entire interior of the four-storey apartment building was removed and a new steel and reinforced-concrete structure was erected within the perimeter masonry shell. A concrete staircase that wraps around a pillar of the same material was added by him and provides the primary circulation up the atrium. Glass railings reflect light from the nearby windows, while wooden boards on the ceiling soften the otherwise cold materiality. Many of the floors include galleries with architectural models made by students, alongside drawings and other archival materials. Tadao Ando turned an old brick building into an architecture-focused exhibition centre. (Cogley, 2018)

One of the most highly regarded architects of the 20th century, Walter Gropius, was one of the founding fathers of Modernism, and the founder of the Bauhaus, the German “School of Building” that embraced elements of art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography in its design, development and production. (Team, 2019) The Bauhaus has a glass facade on the load-bearing framework which allows a view of the interior workings. The design does not visually amplify the corners of the building, which creates an impression of transparency. Gropius designed the various sections of the building differently, separating them consistently according to function. He positioned the wings asymmetrically; the form of the complex can thus be grasped only by moving around the building. There is no central view. (Bauhaus dessau, s.d)

Here is minimalist side table designed by Berlin-based studio, New Tendency. The studio applies Modernist design principles onto contemporary objects of the everyday. In Bauhaus tradition, New Tendency creates products characterised by conceptual design, clean aesthetics and functional form, handcrafted in Germany. The piece combines New Tendency’s conceptual design, clean aesthetics, functional form with high-tech craftsmanship in its purest form. (Leibal, 2018)

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was a french artist and scupltor, who developed a primitive style of direct carving allowing the innate qualities of the stone, marble or wood to show through simple forms, respecting the block, and often polished to bring out the colour and grain.  This ethos of simple forms which also used nature as a source of inspiration, particularly for pattern, in the strong belief that art and craft enhances people’s lives. He showed an instinctive understanding of his material, its right use and possibilities. (Gardengallery, 2015)

Image result for henri gaudier-brzeska
Fig.15 Crouching Fawn, 1913
Image result for henri gaudier-brzeska
Fig.16. Red Stone Dancer, 1913-14


Austin Williams (2015) The Architectural Review (accessed 26.5.19)

Philip Stevens, (2018) Designboom (accessed 26.5.19)

Salvatore Peluso (2018) Domus (accessed 26.5.19)

Bridget Cogley (2018) . dezeen (accessed 26.5.19)

Bauhaus dessau (date unknown) Bauhaus Building (accessed 26.5.19)

Ad Editorial Team (2019) Arch Daily (accessed 26.5.19)

Leibal (2018) Leibal (accessed 26.5.19)

Gardengallery (2015) The Garden Gallery (accessed 26.5.19)


Fig.1-4 Shigeru-Ban settlement in Kenya (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.5-8 Wrightwood 659 exhibition space in Chicago (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.9-12 The Bauhaus 1927 (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.13-14 A stainless steel side table, Meta (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.15 Crouching Fawn (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.16 Red Stone Dancer (accessed 26.5.19)

Focus – the Designer & the building

In order to understand more about the building and its interior, I have continued gathering research to understand what context Norman Foster was designing in and what has inspired him to design in this way.

I looked at some of his work and found the following very interesting.

Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 features 10 chapels, one of which was designed by Norman Foster. It is made from ramped steel floor structure that supports a timber deck, the structure is made of steel masts and cross arms, braced by prestressed steel cables and small inclined circular hollow sections. Jasmine vines will climb the structure over time softening its contours releasing a gentle fragrance to enhance the sense of spiritual calm. (Foster + Partners, n.d) The structure sits in the forested region of the area among trees and near to the water. it manages to appear organic, as part of the landscape; yet, offers shelter and shade for visitors. (Rob Reuland, 2018)

Bund Finance Centre is a mix of historic and modern materials, taking into account the environment and connecting the old town with the new. The buildings were placed staggered in height facing the waterfront and relate in scale and rhythm to landmarks along the Bund. Each building is of hand crafted granite, become slimmer as they rise, giving the impression of solidity at the base and transparency at the top. At the heart of the design is an arts and cultural centre encircled by a moving veil which adapts to the changing use of the building and reveals the stage on the balcony and views towards Pudong. (Foster + Partners, n.d)


Rob Reuland (accessed on 7.5.19)

Foster & Partners (accessed on 7.5.19)