Be inauthentic if you like, just don’t be lazy

We can make brick panels that look like real brick.

Great.

Brick can look very nice, but that is not the reason for it’s ubiquity in construction for the past nine millennia or so. They were used because they were a great combination of cheap, durable, fast, and strong. Concrete is those things, only more so. So why do we fake it? Because it’s comfortable, it’s the chicken noodle soup of cladding. Want your building to look generically pleasant? Make it in brick, want it cheaper? Make it with concrete or steel and throw brick panels on it. There is nothing wrong with this, but there is rarely much right about it either. If this is your brick panel, your chicken noodle soup is Campbell’s, and thin at that.

If you get a panel that looks more like this, you’ve got a richer, heartier soup, almost a stew, but it’s still chicken noodle soup, reliable, conventional, noncontroversial, uninspired.

If all we’re doing is cladding, then we can use the thousands of materials, dyes, and computer aided production techniques we’ve created to do it, the whole world of geometry and color is our playground. Sometimes conventional is needed, but simply specifying a brick finish on a building because that’s what is always done is not a design reaction to a projects program, location, or client desires, it’s just laziness. Instead designers should consider the alternatives. Such as this.

That’s a car park, affectionately called the sugar cube, it’s in Sheffield, and the surface condition is created by aluminum plates with green backing protruding from the concrete structure, it’s just facade, but it challenges expectations and creates a totally new experience, not everyone will like it, but it is certainly not lazy. Don’t want to break the two dimensionality of the typical facade? You could go with a panel system that embraces the fact that it’s a panel, and doesn’t try to hide it’s seams, like these.

The one on the left is called Trespa Meteon, the right is Textura.

The question therefore is not “am I doing something wrong choosing faux brick over the real thing?” but rather “could I be choosing something better, with similar cost and performance?” So, which side of this building do you think looks better?

(brick added in Photoshop for demonstration purposes)

Trespa

Sugar Cube

Textura

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