Thursday, May 20, 2010

She's a Brick House

Long regarded as a tour de force of masonry, the Martin House Complex has recently garnered another recognition for its bricks and mortar in the latest "Brick '10" publication assembled by Wienerberger AG, the world's largest brick manufacturer.  "Brick '10" is a beautifully produced book profiling Wienerberger's annual "Brick Awards" for contemporary, international brick architecture; the publication also includes an article by myself and restoration architect Ted Lownie profiling the Martin House Complex from the perspective of reproduction historic bricks applied to a distinctive reconstruction / restoration effort. 

The long and painstaking process of reproduction brick procurement for Phases III and IV of the Martin House Complex restoration, led by Hamilton Houston Lownie, is a case study in the challenges posed by this restoration project in general.  Essentially, materials are too uniform today - digitally engineered, mechanically produced and laser cut. They are, for the most part, made for consistency.  Thus, the restoration team for the Martin House Complex sought "consistent inconsistency" of materials to mitigate the inherent artificiality of the reconstructed and restored elements of the buildings.  Once an acceptable brick match was found (Belden Brick Company), the masonry contractors underwent extensive training to reproduce the unique, horizontally-raked brick walls and piers that Wright once described as "like a finely corded silk."  The masonry of the Martin House Complex, new and old, achieves such a fine, "woven" quality only by virtue of its meticulously chosen materials.

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