Skip to main content


Showing posts from July 22, 2012

Site Finding

I knew I wanted to site my construction at the back corner of the field, far away from the house and looking out over the valley and the wheat field. I'm glad I found a hole left over from a previous earth-casting test- less digging to do. 

The Chilterns are actually chalk hills, and it was only during the last ice age that clay was pushed up from the valleys onto the ridges. Grymsdyke is on one such ridge.

First Mold

One of the goals I set for myself for my time here at Grymsdyke is to acquaint myself with digital fabrication techniques. This brick mold is my first introduction to the potential of the CNC machine.

I realize how much skill is needed to operate such a machine. You need to have a deep understanding of the behaviour of the material under the drill bit in order to set the speed, depth, and direction of each operation. I had help with this part- hopefully it is something I will learn in the future.

As well, the milled pieces still require a lot of hands-on work, for their finishing, sanding, and assembly. I added notches as handles, and filed the joints.

Brickworks in Buckinghamshire

The 'custom mold' room. An amazing space filled with the legacy of bespoke modules.

 After the desolation of the Warsaw brickyards, the bustle of the H. G. Matthews factory in Chesham was heartening. It was a hot, sunny day- perhaps England will have a summer after all- but they were doing a wood firing as well as making new bricks. 
The forming process is interesting because they have two groups of workers, forming at the same time: one group works with a machine, and the other molds by hand.

The machine-forming group. The worker on the right demolds the bricks that have come out of the machine, and spins them on the turntable to the worker on the left, who shelves them for drying.

The brick-making machinery reminded me of the Charlie Chaplin film Hard Times, all squeaky gears, thick belts, and cogwheels.

The hand-forming group. Wooden molds of four bricks each are filled, scraped, demolded, and shelved.

They fire with both wood and oil; the oil fires can get up to 1300C, which res…

Our Lady of Czestochowa

Although Social Realism championed the brick and the bricklayer as a symbol of solidarity and popular labour, optimization and Modernist influences led to a decline in brick construction in Warsaw during the 1970's and 80's. Indeed, at that time, architecture in general suffered due to standardization and centralization. In Poland in 1980, as many as 160 'factories of houses' produced large concrete panels which were used to build over 80% of apartments.

The decade of the 1980's in Poland was a time of low standards and a permanent crisis in all spheres of life [...] The only way to bypass the strict building standards imposed on prefabricated housing construction and an opportunity to show designing skill was when a new church was to be designed and built.

Majewski, Jerzy Stanislaw, Landmarks of People's Poland in Warsaw, Warsaw: Agora, 2010, p. 254

 In many cases, the designers of churches chose to return to brick, and the church of Our Lady of Czestochowa on …