Brick is the “Background” to our Lives

RIBA presidential hopeful Angela Brady addressed architects, students and designers from across the UK at the latest Wienerberger lecture. Entitled Brick: As Safe as Houses, the talk covered innovative uses of brick, its aesthetic appeal and the performance credentials of this enduring building material.

Brick provides the ‘background’ to our lives,” said Angela, the director of London-based Brady Mallalieu Architects who has announced her intention to run for the RIBA presidency this summer. “I was born in a brick hospital, was taken back to a brick house, went to a brick school, studied at a brick university, lived all my life in a brick-built street. This is a building material that has been around for thousands of years and has remained popular because it is not only durable and beautiful, but also because it can be understood on a human scale – you can hold a brick in one hand and lay the mortar with the other. There is a great loyalty to it among architects and clients who are very fond of a brick finish.”

A straw poll of attendees at the lecture, held at RIBA headquarters in Portland Place in London, showed that more than two-thirds were currently working in brick with only a handful using more modern methods such as prefabricated timber panels or hi-tech stainless steel panels, Angela then introduced the 80-or-so invited guests to the inventive use of brick in the façade of several of the recent Wienerberger Brick Award winners and demonstrated a number of brick-based Brady Mallalieu Designs, including the eye-catching rotunda of the St Catherine’s Foyer and the splendid Highbury Crescent which used Wieneberger’s distinctive Smeed Dean London stock brick. Angela showed how the use of colour, texture and design can bring buildings to life and argued that the use of brick was not simply the ‘default option’ of the unimaginative social housing contractor, but instead offers an unrivalled pallet of aesthetic options, with inbuilt safety credentials.

She said: “Brick is an extremely adaptable material and can be used to create some exciting contemporary designs or recreate the heritage finish of an historic building. It allows architects to express modern concepts while retaining a link to the historic British vernacular. Its additional safety credentials – as a fire retardant material with inherent strength – allows architects to focus on the designs without having to worry that they are compromising on safety.”

Her talk was the fourth in a series of lectures sponsored by Wienerberger, the world’s largest brick manufacturer, and follows previous events headed by former RIBA presidents Maxwell Hutchinson and George Ferguson, and architect, historian and academic Dr James Campbell.

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