Hit and Miss

June 2019

The imminent closure of Claypave brickworks just out of Brisbane is tragic on a number of fronts.

The brickworks, a business established in the early years of construction in Brisbane, will soon cease to be. With it goes both the livelihood of the family that has run this business for the last few decades and all their accumulated knowledge.

Our architectural practice has enjoyed a co-operative and collaborative relationship with Claypave for some years now. We have taken our staff to see the production in order to better understand the medium and product and worked with them to achieve some unique solutions. To have an inherent understanding of the subtleties of the material, its strengths, limitations and idiosyncrasies, is essential to knowing how it will perform in a certain application and how we need to use it when we design and detail. Claypave have been a large part of our collective education, understanding and appreciation of all things brick and we will sincerely miss their input.

Manufacturing in Australia has long been in decline since the 1970s and with that decline has come not only the loss of countless family owned and operated businesses, but the loss of specific knowledge and diversity of consumer choice. This loss impacts everyone collectively.

For our practice, Claypave brick is one material that exemplifies a number of desirable qualities and embodies many of the values we always strive to achieve within our architectural approach. It is locally manufactured with local materials. It is durable and low maintenance. It facilitates creativity of expression, interpretation, collaboration. It is textural and tactile, honest and humble.

More importantly it celebrates a traditional craft and speaks of a human scale. There is a human touch that is apparent throughout all stages of the manufacturing (Claypave still have old handmade molds for some of their dry pressed products.) This consideration of craft also extends to the laying of brickwork where the artistry of bricklayer comes to the fore. With some of the bespoke shape bricks we’ve specified (with names like squints, headers, bullnose, plinth), different bond patterns, mortar profiles and colours etc. comes a greater diversity of design possibilities. The construction and assembly equally requires consideration and craft as part of a collaborative dialogue between builder, architect, bricklayer, client, manufacturer. We highly value such engagements. Buildings are richer. People are richer.

The company dared to create a point of difference and an alternative to the narrower and increasingly standardized approach to building materials in the current age. Whilst the humble materiality of brick is sustainable in the true sense of the word, it seems the more bespoke product range and human focused approach favored by the business of Claypave was not. The memory of their approach will endure as will their product