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Together with designers and artists a collaboration for a research has started. Funding bodies and further information will be announced soon.
One element that affects different levels of the society is the red brick. From the production to the moment of building, the brick and the people’s diverse needs enabled different spatial alternatives. Through those action a whole economy, a building and ultimately a city was created. Local academic researchers were critical of the brick and had tried to introduce more sustainable materials, but they weren’t accepted and there seemed to be a strong formal and informal lobby behind the production and usage of the red brick.
The reasons for such a social and economical response to the failed attempts of institutes trying to incubate new popular materials are different from one place to another, but mostly it is because the social and economical networks are centered on the Red Brick. This research will not introduce new materials but will literally follow the success behind the red brick. By attempting to understand the backgrounds of an already accepted and socially preferred building material in different societies, new environmentally and socially sustainable material could be ultimately introduced.
“Following the Red Brick” is a research proposal, which attempts to follow, analyze and recognize the different urban practices created by the production and the execution of red bricks in different neighborhoods and spaces. It will not only concentrate on the usage of the red brick in buildings but will also study the alternatives spaces created by it. What economic and social forces are behind its success? How many stages does it go through to reach the end user? How does the end-user work with it? Who builds with it? How is it paid for? What possibilities does it enable? Through raising those questions (and other questions that will come from the situation), I would be able to grasp the economic drive, social and building code behind what is in reality more than a simple building block which could help in introducing new materials that could be easily used by the popular majority.
The aim is to follow the brick through its different stages. The research will not look specifically for red brick alternatives, however if alternatives are used or someone is trying or tried to introduce them at the time of research following them also would take place. The goal is to follow the success of the material using an Actor Network Theory (ANT) perspective. Interviews, derives participatory observation and architectural analysis would be used in addition to performative methods that would be designed at site and depend on the situation given.
Anticipated benefits of the research for my creative development in particular and for architects in general:
Architecture as a collective urban element has to be dealt with socially and regarded as a process and not an end product – especially (but not only) when dealing with informality. By viewing architecture as a process, the needs of a wider range of people could be addressed, thus ultimately changing the so-called end product of such a process. In this case, however, the effect of altering the red brick is wider than the community where the elements are used for building. Environmental consequences are one of the world’s most pressing issues, nevertheless, attempts to deal with the causes of national and international environmental consequences have been minimal and to a very large extent not accepted by society. Examples from Egypt and Shanghai show that people have once again preferred the red brick over the local bricks, which are, in the case of Egypt, even cheaper and more robust than the red bricks. Although one could argue that the Red Brick is a by-product of a once colonized world, the situation of Ethiopia proves that this is not the case since Ethiopia has never been occupied. The methodology to reach a new building material or a strategy thereof is where the real design lies. Because such a methodological approach shows that design is, as a matter of fact, a very social and interdisciplinary act. The importance of this research will be in its understanding of architecture's effect on society and the economy even before the building is designed and constructed. This would widen the knowledge of informal housing and would help create integrated, accepted solutions.