It’s always cheapest to build with local materials. France is a stony country, and so many villages are built entirely out of the local stone. This makes for a local ‘look’ that’s very pretty — all the houses are of cream colored limestone, or gray granite, or whatever.
But if you have no useful stone near by? The cheapest options are always the close ones, because it’s so costly to haul building materials. And around here the favorite construction material is brick.
An ancient and delightful material, brick is essentially fired clay. This means that brick has all the plasticity and variety of clay, and can be fired to be as tough as porcelain. It’s not structural the way stone is, but you can get some glorious effects. Have a look at that first photograph, where the clay tile is imitating the classic egg-and-dart carving that is usually executed in marble. Or you can use it to take the place of the fancypants marble frieze that you can’t at this moment afford, in the fourth and fifth images.
A great deal of this brickwork, in downtown Portland OR, was done during the Great Depression. You could keep a lot of skilled brickworkers alive by maxing out the fancy stuff on a big building. The third image, a Christian Scientist church, was built precisely to employ people. Essentially it’s a cathedral in brick.