Across the world, bricks are at the heart of countless building traditions. They define the nature of our cities and villages, public and private buildings, religious and monumental constructions. At times, they are used with other materials, perhaps a plaster that makes them “invisible”, but they can also be left exposed - a face brick - using the inherently wonderful decorative and compositional potential of the bricks themselves. Many architects have chosen bricks to embellish great works of architecture, but they are also very much a part of contemporary building, especially as the technology and performance of bricks has constantly developed, becoming more sustainable, resistant, durable and practical, while also adding increased aesthetic options.
Confindustria Ceramica is the Italian ceramics association and many of the companies that are part of it are in the brick industry. Such companies are found right across Italy, in every region, suggesting the close ties between such businesses and local areas and economies. Despite the output of such firms varying enormously, they are tied together by the quality of the materials and a versatility that allows them to keep up with developments in the industry, as new technologies bring better performing products that can be used for a host of applications.
The town of Segrate, on the eastern outskirts of Milan, is home to a new residential apartment development - Residenze le Ninfee - with four condo blocks surrounded by plenty of urban greenery. The building is in energy Class A, and achieving such energy performance required Normablok Più S40 HP external masonry bricks from Fornaci Laterizi Danesi as they provide the necessary, demanding levels of insulation and earthquake resistance. The Normablok Più S40 HP brick is manufactured by sintering beads with BASF’s Neopor® graphite additive polystyrene into the spaces in the blocks. This solution combines the insulating benefits of polystyrene with the breathable, natural and durable nature of bricks. For the development in question, the walls were simply plastered, producing a thermal transmittance value of 0.15 W/m2K.
When bricks are left exposed, the creative options for architects grow exponentially, as they can manipulate the surface texture, produce 3D effects and play with the colors, especially light and darkness, simply by changing the laying pattern or shape of the bricks.
For a villa in Peschiera del Garda designed by Ardielli Fornasa Associati, SanMarco’s secure wall system was used as it combines a traditional fixing system, with mortar between the bricks, and an innovative metal fixing system. For the roof, the COTTO3 by Terreal ventilated, dry-fixed coating solution was used, combing a thermal shell, a structural shell and external cladding in terracotta strips and bricks. In the contemporary world energy savings and environmental comfort are fundamental, and COTTO3 covers all the bases for thermal bridges, which gives architects far greater freedom for design and composition.
The Garden of Arts in Pieve di Cento (Bologna province) is a newly regenerated portion of the town, near the Museum of 20th-Century Magicians (Magi ‘900), that combines housing with museum and exhibition spaces. Designed by Luca Venturi, Fabio Paoletti and Fabrizio Campanini, the complex looks out onto the museum’s sculpture garden, creating and framing a new green space. The local building tradition of terraced housing is drawn on for both in the material choices and the construction types. The load-bearing reinforced concrete structure was infilled with Porotherm Bio Plan masonry blocks from Wienerberger that were then plastered and painted. The thermal and structural performance, and durability of these blocks were fundamental to combining the local building tradition with solutions that meet the performance requirements and comfort standards of contemporary living.
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