Master of Architecture (2013) / University of Waterloo – Canada
Samantha Oswald’s master’s thesis “Brick: A Story of Construction”, is a creative and complex account of how contemporary construction techniques can be beneficially influenced by the “versatility and poetics” of the timeless material that is brick and the traditional brick-and-mortar system of construction.
Ms. Oswald’s research interests are centered on the life cycle of materials and the contribution of this cycle to the making of architecture. During her master's thesis research, her subject of study was clay brick, in which she documented different fabrication processes and then adapted these processes to the design and construction of a small shelter.
The work is filled with a myriad of carefully created images that illustrate the process of constructing a Terracott from the ground up. The thesis is in a genre that finds this expression in non-textual form a significant value-added; it is a thesis that describes a lengthy, hands-on process, evolving over time with exposure to changing conditions. The visual components of the thesis have an essential impact and convey the message with impressive force.
As well as Ms. Oswald’s adept and revealing photography, her production of an MPEG video is included as a file supplementary to the main body of the thesis in PDF. The video, “Building the Terracott”, is skillfully executed and engaging. Just under 20 minutes in length, it is sufficient to convey strong impressions of the beauty of the hands-on process while inciting an urge to know more about the process, inviting the viewer into the complexities that are found in the textual thesis.
The master’s thesis is openly available on the University’s institutional repository, UWSpace, at the URL: https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/handle/10012/7760.
Presently Ms. Oswald is working at an architecture practice in Switzerland. Part of her work involves expanding her knowledge of prefabricated concrete: the methods, raw materials, and logistics of its production. Independently, she is teaching herself woodworking to learn intuitive and tactile responses to material. She finds this combination of concrete and wood fascinating because the materials are so different, yet both are profoundly embedded in Swiss construction practices. As an immigrant in the country, she finds that studying its materials is a physical and immersive way to better understand its culture.