Brick and Tile Culture

Tiles are highly revered by archaeologists for their time-enduring characteristics providing evidence that can be traced back to ancient civilizations and cultures. While aestheticians enjoy and draw aspirations from tiles’ artistic appealing and architects are most interested in their measurements and utilization, manufacturers regard them as the offspring of perspirations and efforts. Nevertheless, we, consumers, consider tiles our long-lasting friends that lay a solid foundation for our shelters, decorate our surroundings with patterned floor and wall surfaces, and regularly interact with our lives. In fact, tiles are not lifeless objects but they share a close relationship with our daily activites.

Food, clothing and shelter are the three basic human needs from prehistoric to modern eras. In terms of shelter, tile has remained a basic housing construction material for thousands of years before Christ. The oldest objects dating back from 7,500 years ago were discovered inside the ruins of Cayonu in the Tigris River valley. The use of tiles revealed an important advance in human development as tiles facilitated the construction of houses, citadels, ramparts and castles that signified the end of many long nights sheltering in caves and the beginning torward a glorious era of civilisation.

In Vietnam, our craftsmen have acquired  the skills to make construction tiles since the Chinese domination or the so-called Bac thuoc, yet, many official document revealed that tile construction only reached its plateau during the 10th century. Formerly, the Cham people residing in the South of Dai Viet built great structures from their own self-produced bricks. One of these structures is the Champa temple at My Son Sanctuary situated in Duy Phu Commune, Duy Xuyen District, Quang Nam province which was honored by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site. In addition, in 2007, Vietnamese archaeologists found a Champa kiln dating back to the Eighth Century. Since tiles are closely tied to human life, archaeologists believed that each kind tells a different culture. Every cracking or chipping  tile indicates an inferior  and a deterioration of a civilization.

Tiles are made from soil, an infinite resource that is very familiar to our lives and beneath our footsteps. Soil is a mixture of minerals and mud derived from a compost of plant and water. Therefore, tiles have to be heated at a very high temperatures. A combination of Five Basic Elements;  Fire, Earth, Water, Metal, and Wood, tiles represent a harmony of the five element theory in feng shui that was passed on for generations. Moreover, they retain many features such as high density, high pressure and heat-resistance and soundproofing capability. With these advantages, tiles have remained the safest and the most environmentally friendly building materials.

Nowadays, in order to be more competitive in the market and to meet an increasing demand of industrialization, modernization and globalization, manual labour has been replaced with automated machines to boost capacity while retaining tiles’ appealing features, endurance, and affordability. Wood-fired kilns have been redesigned into fuel- and gas-ignited kilns. Besides construction bricks, a variety of ceramic, granite and cement tiles are produced in a variety of sizes. Materials used in tile production has also been continuously innovated to include not only oil but also stone, iron, aluminium, glass and nano technology. Therefore, the concept of tile is no longer restrained within historical contexts but also by specification, aesthetic taste and trade competition indexes.

Tiles do not “speak” but they have their own language. In fact, the producers, sellers and buyers must understand the language conveyed through each tile.

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