Brick construction dates as far back as 7500 BC when people began constructing dwellings of sun-dried bricks in Syria. The fired bricks, which are more in use today, did not appear until around 3500 BC. Many of the world’s great constructions have used brick. The Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the solid brick walls of the Kremlin and the sewer system that winds under London are all made partially or wholly from brick.
The Wada farmhouse of Maharashtra is a recent example of the possibilities of brick architecture. The influences of the English architect Laurie Baker, who lived in Kerala, India, can be seen. He developed a construction technique called rattrap bond. This method of placing the bricks creates a hollow space within the wall thereby reducing the amount of sand and cement needed while also providing a natural insulation. It substantially reduces the cost of construction. Other cost-saving devices used is brick ventilators, built-in furniture and not plastering the walls with cement. All of this gives the house a very earthy feel.
The architect is from Mumbai, Nari Gandhi’s influence can be felt with the layout of the rooms and how each room flows into the next, running into the continuous space of the central courtyard. This flowing of rooms along curved lines was an important aspect of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, which Gandhi absorbed at Taliesin where he studied with Wright for five years.
The city of Torun, Poland is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its wealth of medieval architecture. Today, it has a striking new building called CKK Jordanki. Merged into an old public city park and composed of four irregular volumes, the complex is made out of white imprinted concrete. However, the standout element is the red brick mosaic, which is omnipresent in the complex’s interiors. This brick ornamentation is the architect’s homage to the medieval architecture of Torun.
In Senegal, Africa the Japanese architect Toshiko Mori has constructed a cultural center using exclusively local techniques and materials. Located in a remote village, the building performs several roles for the community, including a gathering place, a performance center and a residence for visiting artists.
The center, known as the Tread, uses compressed earth bricks and thatch. The buildings twisting roof provides shelter to the rooms below. Thatch roofing is very important because of the regions long dry season. The thatched roof helps collect the rainwater which is stored in large reservoirs and can be used later to raise crops.
The main structure was created by using a bamboo framework with the walls made of compressed earth bricks. The bricks, which were made on-site, help absorb the heat. This building provides the community with a sense of ownership and by using local workers provided valuable training in a remote area.
Brick may be the most common ancient building material, but its qualities make it just as useful today. When brick starts to crumble, services such as Point Brik may be able to restore it to its former glory.