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News > Context Fall 2023 > Editors' Letter: Brick by Brick

Editors' Letter: Brick by Brick

Last year, we devoted an issue of CONTEXT to the exploration of wood. With this issue, we present the second of our single material explorations and consider that quintessentially Philadelphian substance — the humble brick.  

At one time, Philadelphia was a center of brick production and, of course, we live and work in the results across the city. Brick has never failed to engage the imagination of architects. The scale of a brick — easily graspable and enormously configurable — allows for a wide range of expression and exploration. The use of brick in architecture has implications for design and craft, for climate and environment, and for building our communities. Brick is a conventional and durable building material, embedded in the history of design and construction within many traditions. In our current era of thin, framed wall construction, brick should be respected for its thickness, permanence, and durability.  

This issue presents a few perspectives on the topic of brick and innovative examples of its use. The articles begin with an essay on the Philadelphia Brick and the historic concepts associated with its use. We then consider the experience of those who assemble the walls we design. The third article takes a look at brick technical documentation in the form of Brick Notes and considers what they say about design, construction, and the education of design professionals. In the Opinion section, Rob Fleming rephrases Louis Kahn’s famous conversation with a brick to address issues related to sustainability. Expression presents the work of Michael Morgan, an artist who pushes the expressive limits of the material. And finally, Design Profiles present three architectural projects that explore the creative possibilities of brick today.  

Brick is a common material that possesses unique physical properties, holds a surprising history, and forms an enduring part of the character of our city. We hope this issue of CONTEXT contributes to an increasing awareness of the materials of architecture and their expressive potential in your work.  

 

TIMOTHY KERNER, AIA 

Principal, Terra Studio  

and CONTEXT Editor 

 

TODD WOODWARD, AIA 

Principal, SMP Architects  

and CONTEXT Editor 

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