Monday, June 01, 2009

Self-portrait in Green Bricks

click photo to enlarge
"If red houses are made out of red bricks, blue houses are made out of blue bricks, and yellow houses are made out of yellow bricks, what are green houses made out of?
from "1001 Jokes for Kids"
(answer below*)

Many Victorians had the feeling that they were living in an age, the like of which, the world hadn't seen before. It was a technological age, an age of new industries, burgeoning cities, mass transport, migration, population growth, exploration and change. Architects were asked to rise to the challenge of designing buildings that had never been needed before. What should a railway station look like? Or a hospital? Or how about an urban school, a museum, or a cotton mill? And with these new buildings came new construction techniques and new materials. Cast iron, steel, fire-proof floors, large areas of glazing, terracotta mouldings, and glazed bricks were all employed to create the new structures.

I came across some fine Victorian glazed brickwork yesterday when I was in Kingston upon Hull, a city and port on the north bank of the River Humber in eastern England. I lived there for several years so I know it reasonably well. As I walked around the marina that has been formed out of the former Humber Dock I passed what I remember as the "Humber Dock Tavern" but is now called "Green Bricks". This changing of pubs' names to suit the fashion of the day is not something of which I approve: old names carry part of the history of an area and shouldn't be expunged on a whim. The best I can say about this example is that the new title at least has a certain logic to it. The Victorians liked to use glazed bricks to face pubs, and green was especially popular, though burgundy, red, blue, yellow and a few other colours can be found in most big cities. Here the elevation also has tiled panels with swags and arabesques, as well as crude capitals on glazed "columns." One of the virtues of glazed bricks is they last remarkably well, providing a smart, easily cleaned, low-maintenance finish that still looks good over a hundred years later: they should be used more today. I've seen a few examples from the late twentieth century - here's some Southwark flats - , and I've posted another image of a pub (now a hotel) with a tiled facade that I saw in Windsor.

My reason for snapping this pub elevation was not only the glazed bricks, but the reflection of the sunlit marina in the window. It was, I thought, another opportunity to add to my ongoing theme of reflected self-portraits!

*Answer: "Glass!"
That joke is only funny if you know that in the UK glasshouses, that is to say the glass horticultural buildings used for growing tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, etc., are more commonly known as greenhouses. And, even if you do know that it still isn't very funny!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 22mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On