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The brick by editor Kieran Long

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The brick, first used around 9,000 years ago, is the most versatile and functional invention in the history of construction.

The genius of the brick is that it is a standardised product that can be made in both small and large factories. Each one can be lifted by a worker with one hand – no heavy machinery is required. With the right mortar they have great structural stability and flexibility, as well as thermal mass and durability.

The brick is also popular with architects, engineers and builders. From major civil engineering feats to the finest basilicas, from Le Corbusier’s greatest houses to the most outrageous postmodern confections, brick has served an aesthetic purpose.

When we want to do something to dominate a city, we make Munich’s Frauenkirche from millions of them. When we want something to disappear, we make it out of beige bricks in a British suburb. Brick is the stuff that built nations.

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