Eladio Dieste's bricks
Dieste's hallmark: double cantilever self-supporting thin-shell single-layer brick vaults. Here for a bus terminal in Salto, Uruguay in 1974. Dieste lived from 1917 to 2000, a surprisingly contemporary career, little known here. Gaussian vaults: double curves. The book on all of this is Remo Pedreschi's The Engineer's Contribution to Contemporary Architecture. Pedreschi's explanation of masonry vaults points out that the thinness of the shell is dependent on the dimensions of the block and the finishing layer, typical ratio is 30/80. Dieste's vaults were 130mm thick, and the vaults spanned 50m, an astounding relationship using bricks and mortar and not achievable using concrete.
Pedreschi writes that 'Dieste's sense of cosmic economy' – what a lovely phrase – led him to derive strength from form, rather than from mass, using hollow brick (2/3 the weight of concrete) and extremely shapely catenary curves, i.e. higher, curvier vaults.
So, what was going on in Uruguay while this beautiful work was being built? State of emergency in 1968, Tupamaros geurillas defeated by the military in 1973, torture, break up of the unions, torture, the removal of the Communist Party, torture, political prisoners, dictatorship, mass emigration, economic crisis, desaparecidos.
Does stability lead to complacency, and does complacency lead to dull thinking? I've always thought so myself. In theory it should be the opposite, but in practice it isn't.