The Revival of Face Brick
We are clearly seeing an uptick in the use of face brick, which has been rediscovered by the construction industry and architectural profession as a creative, sustainable, long-lasting and durable material that can actually make buildings look sexy.
For example, at The Onyx in Jewel City in Johannesburg, we assisted the architect by cutting our Nala and Protea Travertine bricks off-site at our factory to create a bespoke 'split-brick' facade. It is applications such as this that really showcase the versatility of face brick as a building material, particularly in terms of creating new facade finishes and appearances.
We are seeing this trend not only in South Africa, but in high-profile global cities like Chicago, New York and London, where older building materials are being rediscovered in the wake of the extensive use of steel and glass. A key driver of this trend is that modern buildings may glisten and gleam impressively, but keeping them warm and cool as needed is a major cost factor, which is why a sustainable and energy-efficient building material like face brick is finding favour again.
You just have to look at Italy where clay-fired brick and mortar structures have stood the test of time since the Roman empire. What is fascinating about face brick is that it is equally at home on affordable housing or at the other end of the spectrum on iconic flagship projects.
There is no doubt that fashion changes and building materials come and go, but you just have to look at Victorian London to realise how much of it was built from brick. And that is now being revived again in upmarket housing developments in areas like Regent's Canal.
What is so exciting about face brick as a building material is that you can add texture and depth to a structure by making use of hollowed spaces or stepping brickwork in or out, which also creates an interesting play on light and shadow. These are all additional benefits inherent in face brick that architects and other built environment professionals are rediscovering for themselves.
As with our involvement at The Onyx, we are more than happy and willing to work with architects to realise their visions. We are there to provide the practical and technical assistance to transform their creativity into reality. We are there to ensure that we consistently supply bricks of the correct shape, size and colour, and to give professional advice where needed. It is the kind of supporting role that we have always prided ourselves on, and which we will continue to offer going forward.