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BRICK BULLETIN

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Why is it that certain themes seem to self-select? In this edition the issue of skills and craftsmanship leaps out. Brick producers have made huge investments to improve the quality and competitiveness of their products. But I do wonder whether the construction world at large is prepared to invest in quality workmanship.

In Viewpoint, brickwork subcontractor Geoff Irvine raises this question. Skilled bricklayers are there, he contends, but low rates, inadequate safety and a low regard for specialist knowledge among some contractors can starve the industry of their skills.

The Better Brickwork Alliance, formed to promote sufficient resources of skilled bricklayers for the future, has proposed several initiatives, some of which are already being actioned.

The BDA's Brick Awards 2000, to be announced on 28 November will demonstrate that quality brickwork is alive and well, a point reinforced by the contents of this Brick Bulletin.

Canon's elegant modern headquarters shows brickwork beautifully executed. In Woking the diaperwork on the Baillie Scott Arts and Crafts mansion was created by craftsmen in 1929. Seventy years on, local bricklayers carried out work of similar standard in new homes alongside. In St Helens, massive brickwork cones for glassblowing that were built four generations ago have taken shape anew at the World of Glass, in the hands of twenty-first century brickies. Very different projects, but similar credit merited for the skills on display.

'Respect, ' as Ali G might say.

The Golden Age of bricklaying, as with anything else, is rooted firmly in the past and invariably seen through rose-tinted spectacles. But as the article on Tate Modern points out, the original brickwork of Bankside Power Station (built 1946-60) is far from perfect. Funny that.

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