As expected, we got very dirty in class. Being told we were going to be building mud bricks, I expected to get muddy, but not that muddy. The process of making mud bricks is relatively simple, explaining why it was and still is a common building method. Dirt is mixed with water until the mud retains a moist clay-like consistency while pieces of hay are added for additional strength (similar to how rebar is used in slabs of cement). Once the mud is thoroughly mixed and the material is not too dry or too wet, it is packed into a mold as if one were cooking muffins or cupcakes. Finally, these bricks are removed from the mold and dried by the sun while being rotated to ensure complete drying. Now, after over a week of drying in the LA sun, the bricks are stronger and lighter, explaining why these bricks were commonly used in walls of buildings, huts, and other structures. Although simple, this building method provides an elegant solution to manufacturing strong building pieces, because of the simple resources needed. All one needs to make a mud brick is dirt, water, and some material to serve as rebar (anything from straw, grass, and even hair can work to add to the bricks strength). Having built an adobe house in my backyard as a project with my brother, I was quite familiar with the process; however, I still learned about ‘printing’ or ‘signing’ the bricks. Often ancient peoples marked their bricks with symbols to notify who built these bricks. This reminded me of modern day advertising, and was a fun, surprising fact to learn while I mixed straw and mud together with me feet. Granted modern-day tools such as automatic cement mixers can create better building material in a matter of minutes, I was surprised to learn how effective feet are as mixing utensils.

-Martin Keyt

Advertisements