Building the Local

Globalisation poses an economic threat to small-scale industries. Building the Local is a reaction and reflection to this pervasive issue in the context of the Chiltern Hills in southeast England. The project considers local manufacturing to be an essential part of cultural identity and sense of place, and explores the values - aesthetic, social, ecological and financial - embedded in crafts-based industries and their interrelationships. These themes are manifested in the craft of brickmaking, one of the casualties of deindustrialisation in the Chiltern Hills. Can the ubiquitous, unassuming brick become the icon for the future of craft and industry? 

Working with the last active brickyard in the region, Birkhead introduced waste products from neighbouring industries into the brickmaking process: for example, the beer breweries provide spent grain to be mixed into the clay, as well as bottle glass to be used as a glaze. Building the Local enhances the materiality of the traditional brick through new industrial connections, in an effort to rebuild the endangered ecosystem of local manufacture.

Click here to read the accompanying thesis

Materials: Locally sourced clay, hair, wool, straw ash, horse manure, recycled glass, spent grain

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