The quality of used materials, such as their texture, shape, size, colour, bonding patterns, together with the quality of mortar joints (their colour, width and depth), as well as surface evidence of craftsmanship, they all make a significant contribution to the character of the building. The appearance of the building is the result of a thoughtful choice of various materials, the way of combining them, and the execution of the details arising from the selected materials.
As it is said in Wienerberger catalogue, “fired facing bricks are solid, durable and practically maintenance-free. Their colours do not lose their radiance. As with all clay building materials, facing bricks are ecological and sustainable. They have a lifespan of more than 100 years, require hardly any maintenance and are therefore extremely economical. Facing bricks are one of the most attractive architectural stylistic devices used in façade design. Every single facing brick is a design element and best suited to express the wishes, style and visions of the owner of the building.”
Brick facades are environmentally friendly, beautiful and provide a contemporrary appearance to the building. But they also have many addvantages over the other facade materials, such as high durability, long lasting appeal, sustainability, they provide aditional insulation, they are easy to maintenan and they are fireproof.
In Slovenia, the facing bricks facades are quite rare. For their aesthetic and visible brickwork on the facades of buildings began to be used to a more considerable extent in the period of modernism. Among buildings with brick facades, there are many multi-apartment blocks, individually set or the whole neighbourhoods consist of such buildings, such as Ferant garden, Trnovo blocks, and towers TERM. Simple but effective brick’s compositions structure the surfaces and represent a significant element of the architectural character of these buildings.
Due to the possible inadequate quality of the construction of brick facades, poor long-term maintenance of buildings, and also desired better energy efficiency of buildings, today the residents face the challenges of how to successfully repair their buildings.
The correct approach would be to preserve the brick facade, both visually and materially, with all typical details.
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However, solutions that can be traced in Ljubljana are highly controversial:
– remodeling the brick façade by changing individual pieces, but unfortunately, the colour varies considerably from the original
– removing bricks vertical structural decoration on façades (this means cutting from the plane of the facade of the projecting elements), to prevent the risk of burglary
– removal of original brick, implementation of all necessary repairing works, application of thermal insulation and a finishing layer of thin plaster with brick decoration
All mentioned interventions are unacceptable and destructive for preserving the architectural character of the building, but the worst is the last one. It is the perfect expression of the mentality of the period in which we live in – of the world of counterfeits where fake news, fake materials, quick, and low-cost solutions with a short lifespan prosper the most.
If due to the higher requirements for thermal insulation of the building it is not possible to execute the façade from the standard or facial bricks, because the walls would get too thick, a good compromise would be the construction of a brick facade with a thin-brick coating. Such a solution would provide the building with the preservation of visual and material authenticity. But in this case, the solution should also be found for the execution of the original decoration on the vertical edges and corners, with the turning of the bricks.
In the modernist era, a lot of multi-dwelling buildings were made with new technologies using concrete prefabricates for the construction of the buildings as well as key design elements, which play an essential role in the aesthetic expressiveness of the building.
Facades were made as a combination of plain concrete-panels and bands of balconies with prefabricated concrete parapets. Sometimes, concrete panels were structured by the intensive relief patterns of which different motifs were generated by random laying of ropes in the fresh concrete of the panels or with various inlays in the formwork. Some the concrete slabs are structured with intense relief patterns, whose different motifs were created by randomly laying ropes in fresh concrete slabs or with different inserts in the formwork. Some elements are slightly bent, so that – quite thin – they can safely confront the predicted purpose. The prefabricates are stacked into larger facade fields so that there are wider joints between them. All the elements with their characteristics make an essential contribution to the architectural character of the buildings and the entire neighbourhood.
The original appearance of the facade panels of visible concrete with embedded patterns in relief should be protected, but also the more modest way of structuring the facades.
Two factors threaten the preservation of façades made of concrete panels. The first is the incomprehensible need of residents in the neighbourhood after the introduction of colours on facades of buildings. Individual belts of buildings or the entire building are painted in unusual and vibrant colours. The relief pattern is still perceptible despite the colour applied. Fortunatelly, this procedure is reversible; the panels can be cleaned and protected with coatings that do not destroy the original concept of the neighbourhood.
The second danger arises from the energy renovation of buildings.
If the thermal insulation is carried out on the exterior, it covers all the structure of each panel and of the entire facade. The building loses its visibility, its character. It turns into an uninteresting building of a generic appearance, usually in incredible colours.
This has a very negative impact on the appearance of the entire neighbourhood.