MARK WHITBY Whitby and Bird, Engineers, London
The paper asks why are modern buildings like they are and why do we have such a problem making them like they were. Near the beginning of the century Corbusier eulogised the engineer and thought that natural materials of variable composition would be replaced by artificial ones with fixed properties. Where the material was homogeneous, successful structures were made but where it was not it was replaced or its functions radically changed. Now stone or brick is thought of only as cladding, loadbearing masonry is out and movement joints are in. This ignores the function of the mortar joint laid in soft mortars with sharp sand. It seems that architects and engineers have mostly forgotten much of what was known in earlier times. There is a temptation to describe materials in precise terms when what should be done is to learn how to use the materials without this precision. Engineers need to rediscover something of the art of engineering brickwork.