Bricks often are taken for granted as we walk past them and work inside walls made of them. Sometimes they are cast-offs from building demolition. They are assumed to be made from clay and, usually, baked in a kiln. This series takes a close look at these everyday objects, looking for what is beautiful and unusual, and sometimes what is not made from clay or baked.

A Popular Photograph: East Village, Des Moines, Iowa

I've titled this "Form without Function" and other things. At first glance, it's a simple picture of a closed-up doorway with some vines. On closer examination, those who are "grabbed" by this - and they are numerous - remark on the range of colors in the individual bricks. Then they notice the subtleties: the angular climb of some of the vines, the differences in mortar color due to years of repairs, the ways in which different areas of brick echo each other. Notice that the red in the bricked-up door appears elsewhere, that the white mortar in the lower part picks up white above the door, that an incomplete line of dark gray-blue bricks provides a horizontal line of composition. Needless to say, several of these have sold.

I've returned several times to where I thought the picture was taken, but I cannot find it. It was somewhere between Locust and Grand and East 4th and East 6th in Des Moines. My guess is that the vines have been removed and the wall painted. But I can't find a trace of it.

Main Streets in Smalltown Iowa

Every small town Main Street in Iowa does NOT look the same. As is often the case, attention to detail reveals this to be so. Brick masons left their unique marks and signatures across the rural town landscapes, from the colors to the patterns in which they mortared the bricks into place. Sometimes an odd-colored brick appears in an out-of-place part of a design, lending interest to a repeating theme.

Above left: The Strauser Building, Bayard. Middle: One of two crests in the bank building, Coon Rapids. Right: A motif from Perry.

Below, you can find similarities in the styles of windows and brick designs, such as the form of arched window tops. But no two are identical, and sometimes the closure of an old window opening lends a sense of character and history. Bricks and construction stone from locations outside Iowa, some with very long cultural uses and reuses, invite further comparison.



Above, six from buildings in Iowa, left to right, first row: St. Anne's Church, Welton. Bricked Window, Des Moines. Living Faith Church, McGregor. Second Story Outlook, Muscatine. Second row: Decorative Truss, Des Moines. The bank building, Coon Rapids, uniquely faced with ceramic tile.


Above Left: Facade (Perry, Iowa. Middle: Bricks & Vines (Perry, Iowa). Right: Architectural Detail (Mitla, Oaxaca).


Above Left: Adobe II (Oaxaca). Middle Left: City Hall (Bayard, Iowa). Middle Right: Bricks & Tile (Oaxaca). Right: Pumphouse (Des Moines, Iowa).


Above Left: Tile Screen (Oaxaca). Middle: Worn Pavement (Iowa City, Iowa). Right: Gas Meter (Des Moines, Iowa).


Above Left: Paving brick, North Platte, Nebraska. Middle left: Recycled Stone Wall (Oaxaca). Middle right: Designer Brick. Right: Window and Wall (Des Moines, Iowa).

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