Mind & Matter


Light-Transmitting Brick

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Plinthos Pavilion, showing backlit brick wall. Images courtesy of MAB Architecture.


The desire to dematerialize solid materials by incorporating light transmission capabilities has inspired the development of products like fiber optic-infused concrete and highly perforated buildings by architects like Kengo Kuma—who claims that he wants to "erase architecture" by eradicating solidity.

In a recent exhibition, Athens-based MAB architecture presents their own version of dematerialized substance. Unlike light-transmitting concrete or Kuma's works, however, MAB's installation boasts an incredibly low-tech and inexpensive approach. The so-called Plinthos Pavilion is constructed of rudimentary clay bricks that are simply stacked on-end so that the vertical voids are oriented horizontally—allowing the passage of light, air, and sound through the wall. From oblique angles, the wall appears to be a conventional textured brick surface—but a direct view reveals a high-degree of porosity with far greater "resolution" than a traditional staggered brick garden wall.

Although MAB's cunning transformation of brick via its misuse would require special structural reinforcing and rain protection for facade applications, it demonstrates the extent to which design innovation can originate from the simplest and most cost-effective ideas.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.