Better bricks

2009/10/15 § Leave a comment


Fact:  Every major city in this country savored the boom of the last five years.  Tax revenues went through the roof, record numbers of new businesses sprouted (specifically those taking part in the business of leisure restaurants, theatres, retail establishments, etc.,) and tall brilliant, shiny new condominiums were the symbol of it all.

Look around for a second.  In record numbers, glass and steel towers sprouted all up, beacons to the new moneyed era of over-consumption.  With these developments comes a fun little concept I like to call fishbowl urbanism.  It’s not that hard to comprehend, really, people living on display and all.  But it doesn’t seem a natural way of dwelling.  After all, I experience a substantial amount of these units with curtains drawn, the poor inhabitants doing anything in their power for some privacy.  There are exceptions, of course, but the standard is a hotel, not a permanent residence.

I’m extremely curious as to our obsession with the transparent.  I totally realize and understand our collective power as architects went through the roof during the boom, and that design became as ubiquitous a term as Obama’s Yes We Can slogan, but for the life of me, I don’t understand why more designers weren’t researching new ways to use brick.  Yes, brick.  Some of the most exquisite building in all of New York were built before World War I, and were dressed in brick.  It’s quite cheap compared to aluminum and glass curtain walls, etc., and it also affords the concept of privacy, usability, and more importantly, stability.  Perhaps even more important is the fact that it will age much more gracefully than factory produced synthetic panels highly used in the industry at the moment.  Sure, it won’t be bright and shiny the first couple of years, and may not be that big of an attention-getter right out of the gates, but it will blend in and play nicely with both pedestrians and buildings around it.

So, with all that, what’s out there?  What cool projects use brick and / or other earthen blocks?

To start:  De Eekenhof, an apartment complex in Amsterdam, which seemingly takes it cues from the pre-war wedding cake buildings in NYC.




via:  Arch Daily

SHoP’s ambitious Houston street facade at 290 Mulberry:



211 Elizabeth Street by Roman and Williams isn’t exactly what would be published in more progressive journals, but it is nonetheless exquisitely detailed and constructed.  I think this project, in particular will nicely stand the test of time..  And if you’re interested in the interiors, which are interesting in their own right, check out Roman and Williams’ blog, which is all I’ve seen of them.




And finally, and counter to the point about brick’s inevitable brand as low tech and boring, is a project that is of utmost interest right now.  Project by Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler of the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland.

” Pike Loop is a 22m (72ft) long structure built from bricks, the most traditional building material widely present in New York. It was designed to be built on-site with an industrial robot from a movable truck trailer. More than seven thousand bricks aggregate to form an infinite loop that weaves along the pedestrian island. In changing rhythms the loop lifts off the ground and intersects with itself at its peaks and valleys. The massive weight of the bricks is brought to a delicate suspension. The digitally designed brick structure is further articulated by a weighted compressing and tensioning of the brick bond. Where the loop flies the bond becomes stretched and thus lighter; where it brings loads to the ground it becomes jagged and heavier, thus wider and more stable.”



Via Daily Tonic


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