FABRIKAAT, Dutch for “to make by hand,” was an exhibition at Milan’s Ventura Lambrate, looking at design and craft in garden spaces.

Brick Biotope Micaela Nardella and Oana Tudose

Four teams of students in the Master of Interior Architecture & Retail Design program at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, were given three months to respond to the following questions:

1. By embracing a bottom-up “research through making” approach to design, can new material behaviors and applications emerge?

2. In our digital age, what can be learned through the process of making by hand?

3. Can design solutions be offered that augment existing typologies in our built environment, such as the garden?

Brick Biotope Micaela Nardella and Oana Tudose

Team 1, Micaela Nardella from Italy and Oana Tudose from Romania, were my winners. They were inspired by the disappearance of the house sparrow in the Netherlands, to create a habitat for birds within built environments.

Brick Biotope Micaela Nardella and Oana Tudose

They designed the Brick Biotope, which has a dual function, as a brick, and as a home for house sparrows – meaning that bird habitats can be built in to urban spaces, rather than replaced by them.

Brick Biotope Micaela Nardella and Oana Tudose

The bricks encourage plants and wildlife into buildings, and add an interesting aesthetic to standard brick walls.

Brick Biotope Micaela Nardella and Oana Tudose

The bricks are made by pouring sand together with plaster and removing it by hand after the plaster has solidified, creating organic shapes within the standard brick form.

Brick Biotope Micaela Nardella and Oana Tudose

Our trip to Milan was supported in part by Airbnb.com.