The Styles of the City: Bricks

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.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


The Styles of the City: Bricks — 4 Comments

  1. Nice photos! I was surprised by all the brick construction in Portland, when I moved there from San Francisco. Portland really has that “old city” feel.

  2. I love your eye for detail in your building series. Gorgeous brick effects here! And so nice that they were giving work to folks — we need more of that now.

  3. It’s lovely to see all the ornamental brickwork in your photos, in the patterns, the playing with light and shadow, and the special shaped ornamental borders. These master bricklayers could really take pride in their work!