Molly de Courcy Wheeler

Silver Commendation

Market hall north elevation. The concertina wall is created with paint-dipped bricks and steel.
Market hall north elevation. The concertina wall is created with paint-dipped bricks and steel.

More or Less, Bricks
University of Westminster
Tutor: Sean Griffiths

Chance is embraced within the design process in More or Less, Bricks, a project for a market hall and church between two railway lines in Peckham Rye, south London.  

Molly de Courcy Wheeler made key decisions in the design development by consulting the I Ching, and drew inspiration from musician John Cale who has used the ancient Chinese text in his compositions.

‘It’s a very interesting and challenging method because it throws up unexpected results and forces you to think about architecture in a different way,’ she says. ‘You have to let go of all your preconceptions.’

This random method generated an unusual library of architectural components including a mortar-less combination of brick and steel for the hall wall. De Courcy Wheeler cut each brick and knitted it together with a steel fixing. Each brick is part-dipped in paint to a degree determined by the I Ching. The bricks are then hung in tension to create an undulating skin over the hall. The ceiling is a tensile structure of hanging bricks designed as an upscaled version of the frog of a brick.

‘The whole form of the building is on the dimensions and ratios of a London brick,’ de Courcy Wheeler says.

Another element decided by chance is the tiled floor, which had to incorporate plastic bags. This resulted in a ‘Nightingale’ floor (one designed to make a noise when walked on) that rustles as the congregation make its way to the church which, with its ultra-thick concrete walls, lies within the market hall. The hall itself is divided into plots by 39 non-structural columns.

Prototyping and material testing was considered important – de Courcy Wheeler made a 100-brick section of brick and steel.

Although difficult at first, she found the I Ching process quite addictive as the project progressed.

‘You think it’s completely irrational, but when you work with these elements they actually become really useful,’ she says.