Design

Simple yet spectacular

There is art in bricks. — Photos: Jaisim  

Laurie Baker famously commented that bricks were like faces to him, each varying slightly in shape and colour. He further felt that such ‘unique and characterful creations’ could not be covered with plaster. It is common knowledge that his designs reflecting exposed brick and terracotta tiles were literally a piece of art in structural form.

The type of designs and structures that can be erected with bricks is constrained only by one’s creativity. Be it a vaulted roof, an exposed brick wall or the entire structure being exposed bricks, the roof incorporating filler slabs and terracotta plates, and the walls framed as a jaali with the clever placement of bricks, the final evolution of the brick building is nothing short of being spectacular.

In short, a structure can be made totally of bricks, be it in the walls in exposed form effusing an earthy flavour in interiors and exteriors, as clay tiled floors, as a brick dome or a clay tiled vaulted roof, as terracotta murals infusing art, or as exotic vents for air and copious sunshine where the spectacular brick jaalis have been created by a clever placement of individual bricks.

Given their load bearing qualities, bricks can also be used for erecting columns and beams sans steel though this is dependent on the level of load to be borne. Says Architect K. Jaisim of Jaisim Fountainhead, “It is absolutely safe to have brick vaults as well as brick columns without steel inserts as bricks have load bearing capacity.”

Incidentally, unburnt bricks, that are purely sundried, can be used to create a spectacular structure that is different not merely in aesthetics but also gives a visual as well as tangible connect with nature. A point to be noted here is, bricks tend to take in water especially in the roof but this can be circumvented if the brick dome is layered with glazed terracotta tiles to prevent water seepage.

Interestingly, besides their stunning aesthetics, bricks also pack in qualities of insulation where the ambient temperature during the day is much cooler while the night temperature is comfortingly warm.

Clay brick walls also score the maximum ratings when it comes to fire resistance.

Besides being easy to reuse in a renovation, bricks also offer easy maintenance, without concerns of peeling, warping, denting, rotting or fading. In fact, bricks tend to get prettier as they age.

While the earthy flavour of bricks is widely appreciated, their presence unfortunately in their raw beauty is limited in modern structures.

Concrete blocks, steel, and exposed concrete have replaced this earthy material. While concrete and steel are certainly required for heavier loads in a structure, the common scene is their use even in a design that may not require multiple levels or heavy load bearing.

Quality of workmanship

Says Architect Leena Kumar of Kumar Consultants, “Brick laying requires a certain level of expertise in the form of ensuring that the joints are pointed well to prevent seepage of water. Bricks, if not fired well, tend to weather and chip which means the individual bricks would have to be physically removed and replaced. Given the lowering quality of workmanship and also at times questionable quality of bricks delivered, the option of bricks tends to be limited.”

She further adds, “Bricks, even in their exposed form, require a larger amount of cement as compared to exposed concrete blocks, purely because of the difference in their respective sizes. The play of economics then comes into the choice of materials.”

While bricks emit an earthy appeal, the evolving textures of these bricks vary depending on their firing as well as the nature of clay used. Given their differing shades, using them effectively based on their varying textures can make the structure stand out as pure art.

But Jaisim asks a pertinent question: “Who has the patience to appreciate art?”

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 6:09:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/design/simple-yet-spectacular/article6772123.ece

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