From Babylon to the Wienerberg

Bricks as carriers, protectors and witnesses of our culture

Indications of the earliest use of brick as a building material go back about 5,000 to 6,000 years in the archaeological rubble of our history. Where, when and by whom the first bricks were formed and assembled, no one can say. They were certainly not invented on one day, at one place, by one person. Just like the wheel, spaghetti and neuroses.The search through time and space for traces of brick usage, leads first to Mesopotamia, where still today rich loam and clay deposits can be found in the flood zones of the Euphrates and the Tigris.
In the great city of Babel, in which a mighty king ruled over a great empire, it is said that an unprecedented building was constructed. Without rest, slaves pulled and pushed endless rows of carts with heavy brick loads upward over narrow, steep work paths. Ring around ring, the building towered toward heaven in a mighty spiral, lost in the clouds. How much higher could it go? One day, just after the start of the early shift, for reasons still not explained today, the numerous workers drawn from all corners of the land began to experience difficult and increasingly burdensome communication problems. Panic broke out. Slowly, the precise machinery of the gigantic construction site ground to a halt. When the enormous tower could not be completed due to insurmountably complex communication difficulties, it at least became the most famous building ruins in the history of art.
In contrast, broad areas of the Roman Empire were built of brick. The letters “SPQR” (“the senate and the people of Rome”), which demanded respect from all, can be found along with various legion symbols carved into Roman bricks throughout the entire scope of their empire. From aqueducts and early Christian basilicas to military, cultural and civil constructions. Bricks, wherever one looks. The post card photographs of Europe would be bereft of so many powerful subjects if Rome’s brick had never existed.
In Vienna, brick production has had a continually growing tradition at least since the construction boom during the last third of the 19th century. In a museum dedicated expressly to the history of brick, one can enjoy an introduction to this material so deeply connected with humankind. From Babylon to Wienerberg, a Central European brick centre, from a legendary hallmark of early cultural history to the trademark of a “global player”.
The pride of an entire culture is expressed through bricks. Consider, for instance, the impressive achievements of those unknown engineers who built the Roman aqueducts. A good two thousand years later in Vienna, the imperial capital and residence city had grown into a metropolis, brick structures with unmistakeable character arose. As with the Roman brick, the “Kaiser brick” was also the building block of an empire.
The history of the brick is all around us. If one cuts into a city anywhere in Europe to examine its historical organs, what does one see? Bricks! Everywhere, at all the deeply buried and temporally disparate levels of civilization, bricks can be seen at the border between yesterday and today. So continues the tradition of the ancient and ever modern building material of baked clay from the present day through the days to come – straight back into the earth from which we all were formed. Supposedly.
ByGustav W.Trampitsch
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