Road Trip: The Versatility Of Bricks

by Don Friedman on May 12, 2016

A shot taken in the London Underground:

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It’s the Circle Line, which is the oldest portion of the Underground. (The dramatic shadows are free with each purchased fare.) As a New Yorker, I’m used to cut-and-cover subways, which were built by excavating a trench and then building a roof over it to carry the streets above; this portion of the Circle Line has the cut without all of the cover.

The area over the station has very large steel girders – built-up through riveting – carrying the roof. (Probably to come in a future blog post…) But the street crossing the cut that we see further down the tracks is carried on a big brick arch bridge. (Click to enlarge the photo and you can see that the arch proper consists of four courses of brick carrying the brick spandrel walls. I’d guess that the space above the arch, below the road, and between the walls contains earth fill, but that’s just a guess.) Even better, the retaining walls that define the cut are solid brick with integrally-built brick buttresses.

We’re so used to the freedom of design afforded to us by structural steel and reinforced concrete that it’s easy to forget that great structures have been built using nothing fancier than bricks.

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