Brick Building Blocks: The First Cities

Brick Building Blocks: The First Cities

is a wonderful material. There’s an alchemy about brick –
about all building materials made from fired clay – where the
elements of earth and water are transformed by fire into a material
that can be more durable than stone. Through fire, mud – a soft,
ephemeral and base material – is transmuted into the hard, the
eternal and the beautiful. Perhaps it is the beauty of bricks that
is the starting point of my love affair. Many materials can be hard
– wrought iron, steel, or concrete – but they don’t have the
character or ancient pedigree, of brick. As well as hardness,
history, beauty and character, brick possesses great subtlety.

A brick’s colour and texture is the result of the mix of clay
from which it is made, perhaps with the addition of other
materials, and of the manner in which it has been fired – primarily
the temperature, length and regularity of the firing process. Also,
unlike many other hard building materials, bricks breathe, almost
as living beings. Their open-cell structure makes them wind-proof
but breathable, which means they are the ideal material for homes.
They also offer superb insulation, helping interiors remain cool
during hot summers and warm in cold winters. Since they also
function as heat reservoirs because of their high heat-retention
capacity, bricks can actively help warm a room. In a brilliant
manner, the heat stored during the day is gently released when
outside temperatures fall.

The inherent qualities of brick – aesthetic, economic,
environmental and structural – seem to have been recognised by
mankind at a very distant time. Indeed, as far as it is possible to
tell, bricks are the oldest man-made building material. The first
cities made by man, such as Uruk in Mesopotamia which was founded
around 6,000 years ago, and Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus
Valley dating from around 4,600 years ago, utilised brick and other
clay products.

In the 21st century, brick continues to play a creative role in
the making of sound, functional and delightful architecture.
Indeed, in this age of ever-increasing concern over ecology,
sustainability and energy conservation, bricks – with their
long-life span and splendid insulation characteristics – remain an
ideal building material.

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