The humble brick: we work with it every day and probably never really think of it as anything more than a key component of the structures we build.

However, for some people, the brick is just the starting point of an innovative project or an artistic endeavour! So, just for fun, in this week’s blog we’re bringing you two short stories that might make you see bricks in a new light.

The innovative entrepreneur

A 29-year old entrepreneur from Nairobi is using plastic waste mixed with sand to create bricks that are more durable and cheaper than concrete!

Tired of seeing plastic waste polluting the Kenyan landscape, Nzambi Matee quit her job as a data analyst and oil-industry engineer and set up a small lab in her mother’s backyard where she began testing plastic and sand combinations. Matee was given a scholarship to the University of Colorado Boulder where she studied the materials further and developed a prototype for a machine that could produce the bricks.

Since founding her company, Gjenge Makers, Matee and her team have recycled more than 20 tons of plastic and created 112 job opportunities. With a melting point higher than 350°C, the bricks they create are more durable than their concrete counterparts. And because their source materials (which come from factories and recyclers) are sometimes free, this reduces overall costs, enabling the company to manufacture a building staple that’s more affordable for schools and homeowners.

Matee says:

“It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter–a basic human need. Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous, but its afterlife can be disastrous.”

The artist

Meanwhile, over in the US, street-artist, David Zinn specialises in creating small, improvised images, often using the urban landscape (including our humble brick) as a base. 

Featuring quirky characters like mice, frogs and bears, Zinn’s light-hearted art is mostly created in chalk. Describing himself as a ‘Habitual doodler and street artist, wrangling ephemerality and finding uplift underfoot’ on social media, Zinn’s work is surely created to also uplift the mood of any passer-by.

Take a look at this example of a little mouse seemingly sitting inside a brick, just waiting for something to happen! See how this piece of art was made here.


Feature image: Freepik

Other images:

Gjenge Makers

Street Art Utopia and David Zinn Illustration