VenkateshBrick Layer

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The talented hands behind a brick and cladding facade—a skill integral to the profession of architecture—usually belong to self-taught artists, such as Venkatesh.

After failing his 10th-grade examinations, Venkatesh was in search of a job when he came across the opportunity to work with a renowned architect in the city, 20 years ago. Having imbibed the required skills and knowledge from the city’s small community of brick cladding artists, Venkatesh joined their ranks and has been working as a brick artist ever since.

Without receiving any formal training, he has developed the expertise to read technical drawings provided by the architects, solely by learning on the job. “I get technical drawings of the brick layouts. These have details like the marking and stone cladding. I always do a trial on the field as there are different variables in the materials. But the structure has to be very accurate, to the measurement. I have to see if it fits in the given space and if the design is practical. I try the first layer and then show it to the engineer. Once I get the approval, I start the work. The time depends on the nature of the design.”

Venkatesh collaborates with a close-knit group of three-four peers, refusing to expand his team as he believes it would ruin the quality of his work. “One cannot achieve the quality of work by employing more artists at the task. More artists require more supervision, and quality gets compromised,” Venkatesh said.

Having been in the industry for many years, Venkatesh has also noticed a gradual shift in materials and technique. He made an interesting observation: “Few techniques like stone cladding were manual, but now are available as ready-made. You also get tiles now. The use of natural stones has reduced which impacts the building strength. The previous buildings lasted for at least 100 years. The newer methods wear out sooner, and you see this building coming down in a few decades.”

With all the rapid changes taking place in the industry, Venkatesh is keen on keeping brick art alive. He not only collaborates with distinguished architects but also takes on individual contracts. Recently, he completed a big residential project in Bengaluru which, despite the complexity of the design, turned out well and received an enthusiastic response from the clients. The project was even featured in the local newspaper, a cutting of which now hangs on Venkatesh’s wall, in celebration of his achievement.


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