Z33 House for Contemporary Art, Design and Architecture, one of seven finalists shortlisted for the 2022 Mies van der Rohe Award features custom Petersen bricks developed in collaboration with architect Francesca Torzo.

The European Commission and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation recently announced the finalists for the coveted 2022 Mies van der Rohe Award. The seven finalists include five projects in the Architecture category and two in the Emerging Architecture category.

Designed by Torzo, Z33 House for Contemporary Art, Design and Architecture is built adjacent to Vleugel ’58, the existing exhibition building at Zuivelmarkt 33, and the address from which the new gallery earns its name. Like all the Beguine buildings on the triangular site on which the art gallery sits, Z33 is closed towards the street and open towards the garden inside.

Brick being crucial to the overall vernacular of the setting, Torzo spent considerable time looking for the right brick, working closely with the team at Petersen Tegl to develop a customised solution.


“The brick formed the starting point for the new extension. It determined the size of the facades and the dimensions of all the windows and doors, as well as the doorsteps in the indoor space,” Torzo explained.

The resulting customised handmade, rhombus-shaped brick with a reddish-purple hue (involving 68 brick colour tests) is used on the building’s façade facing the street and on the internal walls facing the garden and courtyard. It matches the brick architecture of the existing Vleugel ’58 art museum and the historic buildings surrounding it. The buildings are different, but complementary, forming a whole.

The custom Petersen bricks are laid with a coloured mortar to create a coherent look. It’s almost monochrome, but with a hint of the zigzag pattern generated by the rhombus-shaped bricks, much like a piece of woven fabric. While the outer walls are solid, those inside are punctuated with deep faceted windows of various sizes overlooking the garden, each surrounded by the custom bricks forming ornamental, serrated frames.

Custom bricks

Small variations in the bricks produce a shimmering effect on the façade in a beautiful play of light and shadow. Adding to this, the bricklayers decided the exact position of each brick by eye without using stringlines, creating a precise living look and bringing the walls to even more spectacular life.

Artistic director of Z33, Adinda Van Geystelen said, “The new exhibition wing leaves no one untouched. Torzo built a house that meets the needs and the DNA of Z33. Away from the classic white cube art institution, she created a place where things are allowed to happen, where people feel at home. There are few buildings that play with all the tools you have at your disposal as an architect: the play of light, the alternation of large and small spaces, materials such as brick and concrete, patios with greenery, the vistas and different perspectives… That is the power of this exhibition wing. Francesca Torzo masterfully plays on all the senses, in every detail with great craftsmanship.”

Photographer: Gion von Albertini