Saturday, March 10, 2012

Brick Ovens without Boundaries #4

'Four Banal' in France
This series is intended to reference brick oven styles in different regions and at different times in history. Remarkably, the 'technology' of a brick oven hasn't changed in over 3000 years. The ovens built within the last century are nearly identical to ones a hundred or five hundred years older.

Greek oven
Therefore, the question exists: Why change now? Cheaply made modular cast-refractory ovens easily available by mail-order (drop-shipped) trade short term economy for long-term durability.  But, other than the cheapest cast refractory domes (and you might as well build a 'cob' oven for real cheap if you're going that route), most of the modular ovens cost almost the same as having a mason build one from firebrick once all the prep and finish work is done.

Oven and bakery in Normandy
This was my realization when I represented a modular oven company. Repeatedly, components arrived flawed or broken and I began to doubt the reliability of those products.  As a stone mason, I design and build stone walls, terraces, or garden houses to be standing for generations.  So should a brick oven.
Medieval oven in Kent, England

Cob and stone in Portland, Maine
That is also the reason I look to traditional forms and styles.  Once, in the not too distant past (admittedly the 1960's), I saw what happened when maverick house designers tried to be original (argh!).  The same desire to stand out by doing something 'new' continues today.  A grounding in classical styles is a good basis for reinterpreting tradition. Some of the most successful designs today are astute re-interpretations of classical styles.

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