Clay Brick has played an active role within the culture of architecture throughout the ages.
When playing famous modernist architect, Louis I Kahn, actor Woody Harrelson said, “A common brick wants to be something more than it is,”
In the early 1970s Kahn posed a question regarding bricks, that has since achieved a legendary status within the architectural environment. He said, “What do you want, brick?” Kahn says that the brick wants to be structure and cladding. This Kahn achieved in the Capital Comploelx in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He designed several buildings in red brick and concrete. The buildings seem to float above surrounding water which offers a magical effect whilst being practical and strong.
In South Africa, well known architect Peter Rich, addressed a recent Corobrik event remarking on many innovative projects in which brick is prominently featured. The Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre uses mathematics and ancient methods to exploit nature to make brick float in the air. Rich explained that compressed baked bricks were used as the building medium.
In construction of the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre Rich used building techniques he says that have been forgotten to understand and lead him back to genuineness which resulted in the project being named Building of the Year at the World Architectural Festival in 2009. The 1 500m² Centre is situated South Africa’s Northern border.
Rich collaborated with engineers John Ochsedorf from MIT and Michael Ramage from the University of Cambridge, to design vaulted structures inspired by the rugged landscape.
Commenting on the use of compressed baked bricks made on site, Rich explained, “We used approximately 200 000 clay bricks and as we were six and a half hours from the closest major city our aim was to rely on the materials of the site to save on transport.”
Architects such as Frank Lloyd wright have used brick with enthusiasm through the decades. Wright proudly stated that in his hands the ordinary clay brick became ‘worth its weight in gold.’
Brick walls have played a functional role providing support for walls and roof for centuries. However, over the past two centuries brick has evolved to become a creative source to architects.
And, with award winning architects like Peter Rich, whose projects harness African authenticity, and Paraguayan architect, Solano Benitez, who is more interested in building methods rather than form, both experimenting with the versatility of bricks we can look forward to increasingly innovative, exciting and challenging design projects which harness the beauty of the humble brick….and, perhaps, go a long way to answering, Kahn’s question: “What do you want, brick”!