Lets be clear…. I am married to a Bricklayer…so bricks kind of have my undivided attention.
This hasn’t always been the case.
Historically, I have paired brick with the uninspiring acres of new, single story, tile roofed subdivisions that seem to leak out across the Canterbury Plains. In this instance, bricks felt like the go-to for the limited imaginations of developers seeking to make maximum bucks instead of considering the legacy their box houses would leave over the next 100 years.
I’m not sure if my revived interest in this ancient material is due to the aforementioned master brickie, the brick favouritism witnessed on my trip to Europe OR the fact it is experiencing a renaissance at the hands of innovative architects down under.
Nonetheless, my eyes and ideas are OPEN to brick in all its forms and I thought we could explore this together?
What makes bricks appealing as a building product:
- They are super hardy and low maintenance.
- The offer immediate, inbuilt texture without further treatment.
- They are a natural material.
- Bricks offer a softness to hard architectural lines due to their variance in natural texture, tone and form.
- They also look fantastic painted!
- They are incredibly recyclable…secondhand bricks are, in many cases, MORE desirable and expensive due to their softened, aged patina.
- Bricks are a great complimentary material – looking great when paired with concrete, wood products, steel and more!
- They are just as appealing and functional on a horizontal surface as they are in a vertical application.
- You can use bricks to form pattern!
- Available in a massive spectrum of colours and sizes.
- Not just limited to external use, they are a rich option for internal walls and floors.
- Every heard of German Smear?
- Price it up! Brick can be really affordable! Take into account the fewer tradies required to deliver a finished product in contrast to a plaster wall for instance.
The Earthquake Factor….
Given I (and a good half of Kiwi’s) live in an earthquake zone, I set about doing some research here too.
None of us are likely to forget the news shots (or personal experience!) of gaping and collapsed brick homesteads or the jagged lines of fractured exterior walls on single story homes over the past 8 shakey years in this country!
It goes without saying – in a violent earthquake, nothing is technically safe from destruction and it will all depend on what happens under your home during those moments.
However, I discovered that bricklaying practices, materials and techniques have improved vastly over the years and in particular, locally as a result of the Canterbury Earthquake. Older brick buildings were often constructed using only mortar, without the strength of sand and cement. While pointing included the latter, over the years this thin layer was eroded leaving the weakened mortar exposed to the elements.
These buildings may have also had up to 5 x fewer ties within the wall than something constructed now.
Official industry and government entities have tested and re-tested the response of brick veneer homes (timber frame with brick exterior) under the conditions of an earthquake. The articles I have read support the fact that, while bricks may move, in most cases (of COURSE reliant on size of tremors!) they often return to their original position to be easily and very affordably fixed with damage being cut out and re-pointed. Unlike plaster, in many cases, brick structures can be spot patched without redoing or refinishing and entire wall.
“Brick veneer cladding provides good weather tightness and needs little maintenance. However, historically it has not performed well in earthquakes, usually due to inadequate, corroded or non-existent fixings to the frame. Some poorly installed fixings can also pull away from the mortar joints with the same result.”
– Seismic Resiliance
One factor that can’t be escaped is the “weight” of brick.
Following the Christchurch Earthquake many areas have had restrictions placed on foundation types and these may have maximum building loads so do your research!
Over the ditch….
My eyes have really opened to the infinite ways this beautiful material can be applied to homes. Enter character, modern forms and simplistic but rich finishes! I’ve been thinking about the HUGE variance in shape and colour that bricks offer. The options you have in laying them (vertical or horizontal) plus the universe of creativity presented to make shape and pattern with such a permanent canvas. As a tradesman’s wife I think its sometimes lost on the guys themselves that what they are able to form with their hands is a true craft and science (rapidly becoming a lost one!).
In my gathering up of a bursting online treasury of brick architecture, interiors and detail, above all others, it has been the fresh work of Australian architects that continue to capture my eye.
They just seem to be looking at this material through a new lense.
When I look at these homes below I see a distinctive style that works so well with our NZ/Australian lifestyles around indoor/outdoor living, natural materials at hand and clever use of space. I see warmth as opposed to starkness in clean lines and an injection of texture in what are otherwise simplistic urban dwellings.
For more, explore my link heavy BRICK Pinterest board for
loads more inspiration!
On the inside
That’s right… you COULD choose to skip the jibbing, stopping and painting and pull your bricks indoors from out!
I always get a delicious modernist design vibe when I see brick interiors, but we all know that an individuals own styling can take something from masculine/pared back to romantic and rambling – and I think brick can wear both hats!
Below are some more interior shots from Australian based residential architecture, but for more, head on over to trawl my Pinterest boards.
I sincerely hope this got your cogs turning and inspires you to consider brick in your own home and spaces.
All imagery remains the property of the Architects and Photographers credited.
I encourage you to click through and explore all their work!