Architect, Landscape Architect, Urban Designer, Land Use Planner, Environmental Observer

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cities of Brick....

(image of brick bond patterns from
Architectural Graphic Standards,
Third Edition, 1932)

Spending most of my adult life in California, I don't get to see large areas of brick buildings. They don't resist earthquakes very well. In my travels, however I have seen a few cities where brick was the primary building material. About 10 years ago, I visited Philadelphia and it seemed to be one of those cities. It was surprising to see so much brick used, sometimes even for sidewalks and streets.

Another one of the "brick cities" is St. Louis, Missouri -

It is in the way the brick turns and extends that the mason's knowledge and craft come together. The use of the "corbel" (extending rows of brick out to hold something up and create a projection) in the photo on the left shows a deftness and art. The extensions of the brick in the semi-circular pattern around the arched bricks at the top of the window is shear genius.

Another noteworthy part of brick architecture is the cut and carved stonework that integrates so beautifully with the brick. The triangle in the photo on the left is an unusual pattern and one which obviously requires very careful cutting of the brick. The photo on the right shows a somewhat typical entry detail with the projecting capital band (which helps shelter the doorway from rain) and the egg and dart band below, and the floral pattern in the corner.

Recently I came across an article from PLANETIZEN on "brick rustling" in St. Louis. I've known that used brick costs more than new brick (for the "look"), but I didn't imagine that people would knock down buildings illegally to retrieve the bricks.

While these buildings are abandoned, many have real historical value - some have been in the HABS (Historical American Building Survey) ......

Ecology of Absence

Ecology of Absence is a voice for historic preservation and a chronicle of architectural change in the St. Louis region that started as a companion to the website of the same name. The blog focuses on changes in the built environment that come about as a city attempts to stem the deindustrialization, depopulation, shrinking public services and loss of architectural fabric that define the modern American urban condition. There is occasional coverage of other cities and rural areas.

Editor - Michael R. Allen

(also see

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