Is brick obsolete? Indeed, traditional brick masonry is in its twilight years. If we are to consider facade materials only on a practical level, there is little economic or performative reason to use brick. When we evaluate all materials on this level, however, very few options are left that hit the mark. Concrete, metal, glass, and perhaps wood in their most cost effective and durable forms may qualify, but what does this leave us in terms of visual expression and innovation?
If, then, we leave brick’s structural legacy behind and evaluate it on the same holistic terms through which we address other cladding materials, what do we deem an effective application?
23 Dwellings, a housing project by FRES Architects in Béthune, France, presents brick in a less traditional color and finish. Differences in tone between the individual units provide an experience that operates on two scales: the individual brick and the aggregate whole. The brick provides visual dynamism in the same way that sandstone and other sedimentary rocks communicate their granular, heterogeneous nature. This appearance does not present a conglomeration of highly modular units and claim to create a monolithic wall. It embraces a visual melange; many thousands of handheld bricks formed into a dynamic facade.
Is this an innovative use? While it does not challenge our perception of brick’s application, it does illustrate the subtle turn that can transform and elevate a common material.
“23 Dwellings by FRES Architects.” 20 Sep 2012. Contemporist. Accessed 20 Sep 2012. <http://www.contemporist.com/2012/09/20/23-dwellings-by-fres-architects/>