Brick

Brick

Postby GrahamH » Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:16 am

We live in a country where our cities are largely built of brick, particularly Dublin, yet there is rarely discussion on the nature of the material and its applications, unlike stone or timber. Perhaps we can change that.

Image


gunter wrote:Restoration: ''Representation of original form, or appearance''

Peter, I think this term is perfectly applicable in this case. As far as I know, it was standard practice in the 19th century for facades constructed in yellow stock brick to be pointed up in red dyed mortar, presumably in a very reasonable attempt to match the appearance of the predominant brick finish in the adjoining streetscape.

Without having examined the Capel Street building in detail, and leaving aside my own entirely justified dislike of inferior, second rate, buff coloured brickwork, I took it that the architect in this instance had done his research, found that this was indeed the case, and courageously specified and oversaw a magnificent piece of conservation/restoration.

I know this sounds a bit like 'everyone's out of step but my Johnny', but I thinks that this is actually the case here. To properly restore the unity of the terrace, it's the other buildings that need to get their act together, this guy has shown the way.

This is the only example of original red mortar in use on yellow stock brick that I have to hand, and it comes from a bit later in the 19th century, but I'll keep an eye open for better examples if we're heading into a full blown disagreement on this.

Image



To pick up on this discussion on the dying/colour-washing of brick from the Dublin shopfront thread, what is critically being missed here is that historic yellow brick in principal facades became popular mainly as a result of fashion, not because it was cheaper. Indeed the very fact that its popularity increased at a time when red brick making had refined itself considerably by the late 18th century, speaks volumes of how yellow brick was considered as a fashionable facing material, particularly for the first third of the 19th century. The Wide Streets Commission terrace on D’Olier Street stands as a monument to the change in fashion from red brick in the 1790s to yellow brick by the turn of 1800 (although at that point they were on a par).

Image


Therefore, in any conservation work, it is essential that a yellow brick façade which was originally intended as a yellow brick façade, be restored/conserved as a yellow brick façade. It’s a simple as that. It was absolutely not standard practice for a building to be built of yellow brick and immediately dyed red – common yes, standard, most certainly not. Dying took a leap forward in the mid-19th century as a result of the emergence of machine-made red brick, as seen at Dartmouth Square below, and across Victorian suburbs.

Image

This resulted in the upper middle classes having heart failure at the prospect of living in a yellow brick house, prompting them to have it dyed Venetian Red or similar. This was a modification, not an original design intention. If a building has a covering of colourwash surviving today, it is nearly always decayed, prompting a conservation dilemma. As a rule of thumb, if the building is located in an otherwise uniform terrace, where the colourwash was a later addition, it should be removed. If the building is not part of a wider architectural entity, it should remain.


Devin wrote:Image


To be honest I am baffled as to how anybody can support the dying red of a thin sliver of a building in a otherwise perfectly intact yellow brick terrace! Even if there were fragments of a red dye (which there almost certainly were not) these should have been removed.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby Devin » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:21 pm

gunter wrote:whoever did the restoration of that building [No. 80 Capel Street] deserved a medal .......... imagine if the whole terrace was restored to this standard, shopfronts and all, including the two houses that have lost their Wyatt windows, what a head turner that would be!
I agree with gunter!!

AND, leaving aside what might be done with the terrace in the future, the real problem at the moment is the 3 on the left which were refurbished circa 2000 with wide-jointed, 'rear elevation' flush pointing when we were still on a learning curve with the new conservation legislation. They are much more visually upsetting than the "red" one. They dominate the terrace. If you cover over them in the picture with your hand, the different hues of the others barely merit comment.
Devin
Old Master
 
Posts: 1509
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2003 10:27 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Brick

Postby gunter » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:09 pm

Devin wrote:I agree with gunter!!


I've always thought of you as very fair and balanced:)

. . . . now let's go out and trash some yellow brick buildings.
gunter
Old Master
 
Posts: 1924
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:27 pm

!!!

You see, this debate encapsulates the problem with brick conservation - for some reason its repair is riddled with conflicting opinion, when it should be a straighforward issue, with accepted standards and practices.

I don't dispute that the quality of the 'red job' is excellent, nor the improving impact such works would have across the entire terrace. That goes without saying. The central issue is the colouring of the yellow brick red. Quite frankly I find it of concern that there is a barely a question arising with most people about the blatant incongruity and incorrectness of what has been conducted here.

- This terrace was built when yellow brick was highly fashionable.

- It was built as a unified composition.

- It was never anything other than yellow brick. It had never been colourwashed.

Therefore there was absolutely no rationale for colour-washing this building red. By contrast, if this had been a red brick terrace, there would be uproar at the prospect of colouring it yellow! There is brick discrimination at play here! If the origins and traditional uses of all brick types are not respected, then undesirable double-standards are in play.

This is categorically not an issue about the building looking better now, or it being a subtle red, or the windows being accurate. It is a conservation principle about colourwashing facades, a practice which has the potential to radically transform the appearance of buildings and entire streets. If we cannot agree that something as patently wrong as the above is just that - incorrect - then at least it explains why there are so many ill-informed conservation works being conducted across the city.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:47 pm

I better chuck in some softening smilies :) :D :p
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby Devin » Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:57 pm

Image

Close up here of the facade of 80 Capel Street showing that it's red mortar with the yellow brick, as with the example posted above, which gives the muted reddish appearance from a distance.
Devin
Old Master
 
Posts: 1509
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2003 10:27 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Brick

Postby Desmund » Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:41 pm

"I love my breeek"!
Desmund
Member
 
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Nov 05, 2002 3:50 pm

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Thu Feb 26, 2009 5:45 pm

Yip. I hauled a couple of these gems out of a skip in Dame Court a few weeks ago. Luckily I had a brown paper bag with me that I could pretend was covering an abnormally large block of butter.

Image

Lovely Dolphins Barn brick of c. 1900, in pristine condition. It came from an internal wall. Probably amongst the last to be made too as the brickworks there closed in the following decades.

Devin's above Capel Street picture makes matters worse - the brick wasn't even colour-washed! Even more pointless. It's the equivalent of using limestone for ashlar granite splicing repairs.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby Pot Noodle » Fri Feb 27, 2009 7:21 pm

Devin wrote:Image

Close up here of the facade of 80 Capel Street showing that it's red mortar with the yellow brick, as with the example posted above, which gives the muted reddish appearance from a distance.




I think they were doing a very bad job of Tuck Finish chancer's
Pot Noodle
Member
 
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Aug 24, 2008 5:35 pm

Re: Brick

Postby gunter » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:59 pm

GrahamH wrote:
It was absolutely not standard practice for a building to be built of yellow brick and immediately dyed red . . .


Still feel confident about this?
gunter
Old Master
 
Posts: 1924
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Brick

Postby Peter Fitz » Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:34 pm

sounds like you have evidence to blow it out of the water gunter, disclose !! ;)
Peter Fitz
 

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:45 pm

Tsk - less of that pesky selective quoting please.

GrahamH wrote: – common yes, standard, most certainly not.


Nonetheless, I'd be interested to see what nugget has been sifted from the pan.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby gunter » Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:49 pm

Image

Image

Image

Image

These are some examples from within a short section of streetscape on both Lower Baggot St. and around the corner on Fitzwilliam Street (dating from about 1810 -1820). They are are all houses built of the same mottled yellow brick! The difference in appearance where the original red mortar (used in an Irish tuck-pointing detail) has survived, is startling.

Where the red mortar hasn't survived, the brickwork (in some cases we're looking at the same brick appearing on both sides of a property division) gives little clue that the yellow stock brick wasn't the intended finish.

If there was 'a change of fashion' around this time involving the choice to express facades in yellow brickwork, what's going on here?

I hope you're not suggesting that the good people of the Fitzwilliam Estate were not keeping up with fashion :)
gunter
Old Master
 
Posts: 1924
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Sat Mar 07, 2009 12:53 am

The very thought!

I'm not quite sure if I'm understanding your arguement correctly - perhaps you could expand a little?

All of the above pictures suggest a later application to me, rather than an original, intended finish. The purity of the still-white tucks (which tended to be more subtle earlier on, and thus more worn today also), coupled with in one instance plate glass sashes, suggests to me the 1860s colour-washing of yellow brick in line with the emerging smart terraces of machine-made red brick in suburbia. The colour-washing and crisp repointing of a fusty, antiquated yellow Georgian in the city centre worked wonders for one's credibility in clinging on to fashionability in an otherwise thoroughly out-dated inner city of the mid-19th century. At a time when most stone buildings were despairingly irreparably as black as coal, the colour-washing of brick must have been an extremely useful tool and a welcome solution to one of the problems of Victorian urban living. Indeed it's quite likely a number of these houses were touched up for commercial purposes as business premises, rather than as private residences.

Furthermore, the trends of the last gasp of the Fitzwilliam estate in the early 19th century very much veered towards London, with a well-travelled merchant class tired of the plain and reticent barns of the previous century. They wanted substantial 'designed' houses that finally looked like houses, with robust rusticated ground floors, sturdy railings, consciously detailed steps, plinths, doorcases and parapet cornices, and of course a sophisticated yellow brick facade as the critical element in the package. It is difficult to believe that where colourwash exists today, that it was applied over a yellow brick facade in an otherwise yellow brick terrace when the house was built. It doesn't make sense. These were wealthy people who could afford the advancement and decreased cost of construction of the early 19th century, and who - if they so desired - could have the best quality red brick that had ever been available by that time. There are of course examples of the latter in the Fitzwilliam Estate - the trend of adjacent streets naturally proved enduring.

I thus remain to be convinced!

To clarify, I don't dislike red brick. How can one not like it; that would be the equivalent of saying one doesn't like bread. Rather, I find yellow brick that bit more interesting than the standard, the norm, the everyday, that is red brick.

Yellow brick is urbane, sophisticated, beautifully mellow and sultry, and thoroughly pleasing to the eye.

Image



Image



Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby gunter » Sat Mar 07, 2009 12:10 pm

GrahamH wrote:All of the above pictures suggest a later application to me, rather than an original, intended finish.


Come on now Graham, you're clutching at staws there!

You're the one who introduced the phrase 'colour wash', everyone else sees this as coloured mortar!

Remember this started with a divergence of views on the Capel Street terrace. The Capel Street terrace had big wide brick joints, as can be seen from the mess made of the lime pointing to the houses on the left. Wide joints were 'tuck-pointed'. Tuck pointing required coloured mortar! To nail down your argument, you've got to find a yellow brick building from the period that features yellow coloured mortar in conjunction with the white lime tuck.

Good luck with that!

GrahamH wrote:Yellow brick is urbane, sophisticated, beautifully mellow and sultry, and thoroughly pleasing to the eye.


I think the phrase you're looking for is: 'cheap and cheerful' :)
gunter
Old Master
 
Posts: 1924
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:28 am

I think not!

To clarify two issues: firstly there is such a thing as colourwash, as distinct from coloured mortar. Colourwash was, as might be expected, a water solution of a pigment and a fixative which was often applied – presumably by brush – across a facade to even the brick tone, or to change the colour of the brick itself. A coloured mortar was then used on the joints, followed by thin lines of tucking or wigging, depending on the method used. Colourwash in Dublin was almost universally red.

Secondly, on the issue of wide joints and yellow brick, for some reason it would appear that tuck pointing or wigging was not always used with yellow brick in Dublin. Presumably the earthy tones of yellow brick were deemed sufficiently similar to the standard lime mortar used in coursing as not to warrant any further refinement. Typically when one encounters tuck pointing on yellow brick in Dublin, it appears in flat arches above windows and around fanlights in imitation of gauged brick, lending a tailored appearance to the facade.

Notably, the most important yellow brick facade in Dublin, that of the Wide Streets Commission on D’Olier Street, does not appear to have been tucked. It just features wide, even joints.

Image



Image

Considerable levels of alteration have of course taken place over the years, but no apparent tuck pointing survives anywhere along the terrace. The bricks are of a high quality.


From my walk around the city today, I am absolutely convinced that the vast majority of red colour-washing of yellow brick facades in Dublin took place as a later fashion in the mid/late-19th century, and not as an original design intention originating at the time of construction. As such, it is not only disheartening to see the amount of misguided colour-washing of these relatively few yellow facades that has taken place in recent years, it is particularly troubling that so many cases do not even follow traditional red colouring.

Below, I hope I have proved that yellow brick was a confident architectural statement in the Dublin of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and not used as an economical material to be covered over by a veneer of deceiving red wash and mortar.

A famous grand five-bay townhouse on Merrion Square. No colourwash, no tuck pointing, but very much unaltered, uncleaned yellow brick.

Image



Image


A little further down the square, the same scene.

Image


The Arts Council house. At least they appreciate a good yellow brick!

Image


Evidence of tuck pointing here. Thus the choice of yellow brick was intentional.

Image


Another yellow brick house with tuck pointing and lime putty-highlighted flat arches above the windows.

Image


Extensive mellowed tuck pointing evident here also. Unquestionably tuck pointing was applied to yellow brick in Dublin.

Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:38 am

A handsome set of yellow houses on Upper Mount Street. These have never been touched by any colour-washing or tuck pointing, yet feature wide joints. This is quite common.

Image



Image


An interesting blurring of the boundaries occurs on one of the last rows to be completed on Merrion Square. A curious mixture of predominantly yellow brick scattered with pink brick marks the emerging favouring of ‘cooler’ shades.

Image


The effect is not particularly pleasing at closer quarters.

Image


Soft and elegant from afar.

Image

The house to the left is of identical brick, only it has been cleaned (and clumsily repointed).

Image


All of the above cases indicate that yellow brick was sometimes widely coursed in Dublin, often featured tuck pointing, and above all the colour was intended to be left exposed.

Practically every, if not indeed all, cases of colourwash encountered, as pictured below, are by my estimation dating to the mid-late 19th century, i.e. later additions. These were not selective - indeed I went out of my way to try and find anything that looked remotely like an original colourwash. I was not successful.


The most prominent yellow brick building in Dublin on College Green. Modified c. 1870 with sheet glass windows, it is highly likely the weak red colouring was applied at this later time.

Image


It even appears to have been applied over the original Georgian pointing.

Image


This Georgian building on Talbot Street with Victorian modifications presents a similar scene.

Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:43 am

No. 83 Merrion Square. Without question the grubby institutional look emerged c. 1870, with sheet glass windows and a quick-fix colourwash, in what is an otherwise immaculate collection of yellow brick houses.

Image


The same on Fitzwilliam Street (centre).

Image


The same directly across the road (left).

Image


Likewise on Herbert Street with similar Victorian modifications.

Image


Baggot Street. Both buildings were Victorianised (the left-hand one has reproduction Georgian sashes probably replacing Victorian).

Image


Another on Baggot Street (mid-right). Again this yellow brick house was Victorianised with a red wash and plate sashes. The current windows are Georgian reproduction, with plate still surviving to the rear. Neighbouring yellow houses survive as intended.

Image



Image


Likewise at this prominent corner. Victorian fingers all over it.

Image


As with this house (right) on Upper Mount Street. More Victorian modification of the original design intention.

Image


Another institutional wash-n-sheet makeover on Merrion Square.

Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:50 am

The same can be said of this grouping on Baggot Street. Although apparently of red brick, they nonetheless received a Victorian wash and tuck upgrade, along with other alterations.

Image



Image


Some houses naturally buck the trend where just a simple colourwash occurred. Not everyone wanted or could afford to have their windows replaced too. Some frilly cast-iron hoods proved sufficient.

Image


The same here. The coluring was so weak, it barely exists anymore.

Image



Image


There is, therefore, little question in my mind that the vast majority of colour-washing and coloured mortar repointing of yellow brick in Dublin took place in the 19th century, and was not a design intention of the Georgian period. The availability of excellent quality mass-produced red brick by the 1810s and 1820s, at a time when yellow brick was practically as popular, made the colouring of yellow brick all the more pointless.

There are superb examples of early high quality brick on Upper Mount Street. Yellow brick was used on the secondary elevations in such cases – not lesser quality red brick as might be expected.

Image


This pair shows the transition from traditional handmake irregular brick (right) to regular - if not necessairly entirely machine-made brick - to the left.

Image


Fabulous quality.

Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:54 am

Therefore, as mentioned earlier, it is a great shame to see this practice still being conducted on virgin yellow brick facades, which are already extremely limited in number in Dublin, and even moreso given how much is being executed according to the personal tastes of bricklayers and their clients, rather than in line with historical precedent. Given how much confusion there is on this website alone, one absolutely dreads to think what it is like inside Dublin City Council. There is a dire lack awareness of historic brickwork in Dublin, the resultant manifestations of which are infecting countless streetscapes.

Some examples.

A recently completed group of yellow brick houses in a yellow brick terrace on Fitzwilliam Street.

Image


What on earth is that colour supposed to be?

Image



Image


A pink colouring of a yellow brick house on Upper Mount Street. Yes the neighbouring house has faint fragments of a later colourwash, but that sets a precedent for this?!

Image


Madness.

Image


A recently applied salmon scheme a little further up.

Image


A bizarre concoction of Henrietta Street apartment block proportions on Baggot Street.

Image


What a mess.

Image


Another unnecessarily garish job on a yellow brick house on Upper Mount Street.

Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:57 am

An eye-watering newly completed number opposite the ESB headquarters. As if the latter’s recent dusty pink transformation wasn’t bad enough. Woeful.

Image



Image


Likewise with the Merrion Hotel on Merrion Street. After a decade it’s only beginning to mellow, but is still a disaster zone.

Image


The Irish Architectural Archive’s facade was considerately treated. Presumably it hadn’t been tuck pointed originally. Much of this terrace features a similar wineish red brick.

Image


Another good example of a recently completed job further up in the same terrace.

Image


Historic brickwork really is not rocket science. Factors to consider are fairly limited.

- Is the brick red, yellow, or a mixture of both?

- Is the brick colour-washed?

- If colour-washed, when was it applied and what condition is it in now?

- What sort of pointing does it have?

- What are neighbouring houses like?

These few elements should explain the provenance and present-day appearance of an historic brick facade, and inform conservation/restoration works.

Red brick is without question the dominant facing material of Georgian and Victorian Dublin.

Image

This makes the conservation of the limited stock of yellow brick buildings that we have all the more important. Every effort should be made to ensure these buildings survive as they were originally intented to appear.

At least my house, I mean my favourite house, survives intact :)

Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Brick

Postby johnglas » Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:30 pm

GrahamH: a magisterial post - need a lie-down after viewing all that magnificence. Fascinating debate, but it would be great to be in Dublin just looking at it all in the spring sunshine. I'm with you on yellow, but this crisp plainness and economy of detail surely still provides a template even for contemporary design in Dublin.
johnglas
Senior Member
 
Posts: 864
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 12:43 am
Location: Glasgow, Scotland

Re: Brick

Postby gunter » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:43 pm

This isn't over you know!
gunter
Old Master
 
Posts: 1924
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Brick

Postby jimg » Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:24 pm

gunter wrote:This isn't over you know!


I dunno. Looks to me like you're on the ropes. I reckon the KO punch will come in the next one or two posts from GrahamH.
jimg
Member
 
Posts: 480
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 9:07 pm
Location: Zürich

Re: Brick

Postby GrahamH » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:43 pm

Oh dear, has it not been given already?

*hastily gathers together Gardiner estate pictures*
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Next

Return to Ireland



cron