What was the inspiration for the design or style of your home?
After the severity of the Christchurch earthquakes many people chose to reconstruct using lightweight materials. We didn’t actually experience the earthquakes ourselves but when we moved back to Christchurch from Sydney we chose brick because we wanted to bring back a sense of permanence, mass and craft to the city. In our travels, we noticed that heavyweight construction provides more longevity – buildings should last for 200 years at least. In many European cities buildings constructed with brick and stone just get better with age and we want our home to still be solid well into the future. This is our way of giving back to the city for future permanence. We know with this brick our house will wear really well.
How did you choose your brick?
We actually found the brick we loved in Covent Garden, London and we wanted to match them as closely as possible. We initially wanted to use local brick, but really struggled to find a similar product. Because of the brutal form of architecture, we felt that if the building was plastered it might be too severe, but the texture and colour of the brick we chose has created a dimension and depth we wanted to achieve. This is what was great about the selection of brick – it has a warmth and lightness with an almost pink undertone. We love the authenticity of the brick and the traditional hand-thrown soft mud look which we were not able to find elsewhere in New Zealand. Using Stellaria was easy as we emailed a photo of the bricks we had liked overseas, and the team posted us samples to choose from.
What special design features were important to you when you designed your house?
The simple design of the house has meant we have been able to create deep recesses and reveals into the windows. By using the bricks slips on the soffits, we are creating an object with one solid material which folds back into large 1.5m deep reveals. The sense of depth and dimension created by the brick offsets the brutalist design.
The house is in a very prominent spot in Christchurch so when we first started building, we had lots of comments about the large form on a very small site rising into a 3m wall height. People felt it could be too brutal but once the bricks were on we’ve had very positive comments from the public.
What hesitations did you have using the Stellaria bricks?
We were a bit concerned about the importing process but found that to be an easy seamless process and the bricks arrived from Belgium with very few breakages.
How did the bricklayers find working with the bricks?
Our bricklayers, Make Lelei Brick & Stone Ltd really enjoyed working with the bricks and spent quite a lot of time helping us to match the mortar with white cement and grey sand and making up samples. The team did a great job.
Did anything stand out for you during the installation?
We only had one ‘moment’ when they first started to go up and some of the bricks were a bit wet. At first, we thought they were different colours but they soon dried out and alleviated our moment of concern.
Would you do it again…?
Working with the Stellaria team was pretty seamless for us. My wife did most of the emailing and coordination. Stellaria helped us to source the look of the brick from the photos we sent and they got that bang on. It was a bit of an experiment to be honest – one that has worked out better than we hoped for.
We have no hesitation to recommend the Wienerberger-Stellaria bricks especially because from an architect’s perspective these European bricks will enable us to create a unique end result of exceptional quality for our projects.