Anatomy of a Courtyard

FROM THE PRE-SPRING MAGAZINE

Besides installing it in our house, my partner Jack Barron and I have been looking at and thinking about terra cotta a lot lately.

We'll be using it in our next, large-scale hotel project, and were excited by images I saw from a friend's trip to a museum in Oaxaca as well as work by Carlos Mijares Bracho.

Bracho is a Mexican architect who dedicated his entire career to using almost exclusively terra cotta brick. He constructed fantastical geometric structures where terra cotta is the finish, the fenestration, the ornamentation, and details. As far out as the designs seem they are very much based on historical architectural forms. I like the image of the white stucco and vertical terra cotta tile building because it's his own house. I think it illustrates a point of departure and perhaps his love of the beauty and simplicity of the material itself.

 

 

 

The terra cotta in our house was manufactured from the backyard dirt at the brickworks plant in D'Hanis, TX. Their beehive kilns have been operating for as long as they have — 110 years. The kilns are circular brick forms held together by huge steel belts and turnbuckles. Walking amongst them is not unlike walking between Richard Serra sculptures except for the hot, hot heat inside. Funny enough, D'Hanis recently installed a huge fancy steel kiln but when we went there to pick out our bricks they told us they had only fired it once since it arrived — they didn't trust it yet.