Homes and gardens

The beauty of exposed brick

The rustic charm of exposed brickwork in buildings across the globe have always fascinated me. The colours and textures of exposed masonry add a unique character to any structure. In conventional construction today, however, brickwork ends up being covered on both sides with a coat of plaster and paint.

The term ‘plaster’ comes from the classical Greek word ‘emplassein’ which means to ‘mould or form’ and was used by early humans to cover up stacks of uneven stones and rocks. This was done to create even surfaced cave dwellings and plaster was used to bind uneven surfaces together.

But today, with better quality and more even, cemented masonry construction, the use of plaster is mostly seen as an additional layer to cover up imperfections in masonry work. If the joints in the external masonry can be pointed well using waterproofing compound, a plaster cover can be limited to only the internal surfaces. This will not only reduce the burden on the environment of additional material manufacture but also save construction cost and time.

Architect Laurie Baker was a keen proponent of exposed brickwork and wanted to save his clients the added costs of plastering and painting on a building’s façade. His quote on bricks reads: “such unique and characterful creations should not be covered with plaster.”

Exposed masonry also speaks of the history of a building and stands testimony to the skill involved in masonry coursework. Brickwork can also be arranged in artistic ways to create patterns of solid and void latticework to let in light and ventilation.

Exposed façades have many benefits: they help avoid pollution from the manufacture of additional material, reduce costs as lesser material is used and lead to the visibility of art. In a similar fashion, a plaster cover on the ceiling can also be avoided if the raw ceiling finish is executed well using good quality form work. Paint could always be added for evenness without the additional plaster cover.

The author is the founder of Green Evolution, a city-based sustainable architecture firm

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Printable version | Jan 8, 2021 10:26:09 PM |

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