Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunlight and brickwork

This is another minimal modern brick project that I came across yesterday hidden in the streets of Montréal north.  I am very impressed with how minimal the architecture is, how it fits into the context because of the material (brick) and because it is the same size as adjacent houses. At first glance it appears a bit stark, however, upon closer investigation there is carefully integrated brick bondwork that is completely activated by sunlight.  I happened to pass by early in the morning when it was getting sun, but it is cast in shadow 90% of the day, which is very different (last image showing the context). If the building were on the other side of the street it would be much more dynamic with the brickwork casting moving shadows all day.  I am working towards achieving this in my own work, so it is very inspiring.  It is important to understand the location and movement of daylight to really activate this type of brickwork.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Montreal Modern Brick Renaissance

It seems Montreal is undergoing a modern brick renaissance, there are a lot of clean, subtle minimalist modern architectures being built with brick these days.

I am noticing a real movement away from 'yellow and red color blocks' and towards more finely detailed brick patterning and bondwork, my assumption is that architects have become somewhat bored with the obligatory masonry construction in the city and are really starting to push it further.

I'm sorry I am not sure who the architects are for these projects, but email me if you know and I will add a link.

update: The last project is by L Mccomber architectes.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Montreal Brick On Massive Wood Construction (Triplex Construction Method), Montreal Canada

Below are some images showing an historic building in Montreal Canada having insulation added, and about to be re-clad with new brick.

Most of the historic buildings, including the triplexes of Montreal, are built with this 'piece sur piece' massive wood construction technique with wood members that can be two or three inches by ten or twelve inches (3" x 12").  The wood was stacked piece on piece and notched together to form the structure for the building which was followed by tar paper and one layer of brick masonry cladding. Ultimately it is a refined version of a log cabin, with bricks slapped on top to prevent the whole city from burning down if there was a fire, and it worked well. The bricks were "attached" to the wood structure by nails laid into the mortar as the masonry work proceeded, the earliest version of the modern day "brick tie'.

These buildings are not solid structural brick or stone, but there is, however, usually a shared masonry 'mur mitoyen' (party wall/fire wall) that is the separating wall between buildings and provides good fire separation. It is common today to see these shared walls as 'exposed brick' inside many of the buildings, but it is clear that they were never meant to be seen, because many of the bricks are mis-matched and random colours and shapes (clinker bricks) with tons of mortar squishing out everywhere, they are sort of a joy to look at! I believe they are typically 6 rows thick of brick masonry, I'll try to get some photos of one of these walls for another post.

In present day when buildings that have been neglected for decades are finally repaired, they often remove all of the exterior brick, place a thin layer of insulation on top of the structural wood, followed by a air barrier, then re-clad with new bricks. This is what you see in the photos below.  The thickness of the foundation wall usually determines how thick the insulation can be, as it was usually built directly along the property line and too much insulation will cause the new wall construction to cross the property line, so there are limits. In most cases almost all the character and detail of the historic brick and patterns are lost when replaced with new uniform modular bricks. By contrast, if there are no structural issues, the interior of walls - which are usually a layer of lathe applied to the inside surface of the wood structure, followed by a layer of  (sometimes elaborate) finishing plaster - can be maintained.

You can also see an-infilled window in the photos, which tells that the building was modified at some point.  My guess is that the original entrance was at the corner, but it was later changed when it was separated into different apartments with three doors added at the side. Its hard to say without seeing the interior. This is not a typical triplex (see two blog posts prior for triplex information), it just has the same construction technique.