Love Bricks


I love the radical advanced structures of Aladio Dieste…50’s super cool…soaring vaults, go faster cantilevers…. Not as one might expect in reinforced concrete but in a lowly handmade brick.


Head to Rome, the baths of Caracalla, the Pantheon…mass Roman brickwork on a gigantic scale…solid, weighty, permanent…. and their twentieth century counterparts in the stonking magnificent structures (Bangladesh Parliament for instance) of Louis ‘brick whisperer’ Khan…..and while we’re on the subcontinent the lacy brick jalis of Jaipur and Doshi’s hybrid brick/ concrete uni’ buildings in Ahmedabad…progeny of Corb’s flirtation with the simple hut…in the vernacular inflected Maison Jaoul.


….and my first love?...the vernacular buildings of Surrey and East Sussex. Hunkered down against a fold in a Wielden landscape…soft pinky bricks of downland clay in rat trap bond with a dusting of lichen and mossy grapevine pointing.


Lutyens, Baillie Scott, Halsey Ricardo, Phillip Webb, all adventures in the vernacular tradition, but with a quirk, a nutty souped up perpend, quoin or corbel…barley sugar chimneys and crow step gables.


The rough brick ofGaudi, Domenech and Brighton Bungaroosh….the smooth thin joint rubbed brick of the Georgian tradition, a glint in the gloss of a London pub’s green glazed brick stall riser.


And in the modern era brick as…. honest material being what it will for Mies, Alto and Khan…and guilty deceitful brick hidden beneath the heaving rendered South wall of Corbs Ronchamp and the suprematist planes racing through his   Villa Savoie.


And so, in our refurbishment and extension of ET hall’s gorgeous poor Law Guardian’s Building in Camberwell a palimpsest wall stitched, patched and toothed in …reclaimed Victorian Cambridge Whites, Rubbed reds, second hand stocks and star of the show Wienerberger’s lovely St Ives Cream Rusticas.


Elsewhere a turret with a vaulted brick roof and standing sentinel at the end of the new central courtyard an extraordinary brick exedra.


And at our Holmes Road Studios shades of an English walled garden and in the roof line echos of the ancient crinkle-crankle wall which ran along the back of my aunties flower boarders in Norfolk



Peter Barber