material research (ii) | brick
Pukka is a frequently used word when people talk about good buildings. The word means durable/strong, and in many situations people see brick buildings as symbols of pukka architecture. Traditionally, brick walls were three bricks deep and bound with limestone mortar, which is easily accessible in this region. Regulations about seismic resistance require that new brick structures are tied together with reinforced concrete columns and beams. The walls tend to be thinner, and bound with mortar cement. Although cement is imported, more expensive, and not stronger than lime mortar, it sets much faster.
We’ve now visited a number of brick construction sites with Kapil, as well as a brick factory just outside of Dehradun. Unfortunately, due to the monsoon rains (which only ended last week) the kiln wasn’t up and running, but walking around it was easy to understand how it works. It was great to understand the construction process all the way from the production of the bricks themselves, to refined interior finishes. We’re starting a mock-up brick wall on site later this week and planning to test out some of the things we’ve seen during these trips. One of the nicest details in the construction process are the timber props that are temporarily inserted into the brick walls to help the masons move around – a little like the permanent scaffolding typical in Mali’s mosques. Although in India, these are removed, and the holes later filled with new bricks, we really like them as structural elements that could be used as steps, shelves or seating.