Tucson Oddity: Not to worry, but there's brick out of sequence in wavy design

2012-02-13T00:00:00Z Tucson Oddity: Not to worry, but there's brick out of sequence in wavy designKimberly Matas Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 13, 2012 12:00 am  • 

One. Two. Three.

That's all masons had to remember when laying out the brick pattern for the five-story addition to the Arizona State Office Building downtown.

"We worked out a method: As long as whoever was laying the brick could count to three, it would work. Someplace somebody just forgot, and they didn't count to three. They counted to two and laid another brick," said architect Jim Gresham of the break from pattern on the curvilinear wall that faces Alameda Street.

"We didn't know about it until after the project was finished and scaffolding came down. It was another architect in town that was watching it go up and noticed the break in the brick pattern, but didn't say anything," Gresham said. "I would have a hell of a time trying to find it myself. It's in the very top band of brick, and it's towards the east end of that wall."

The flaw would have gone virtually unnoticed if not for a mention in the 2002 book, "A Guide to Tucson Architecture."

The wall consists of red and white brick, stacked in undulating waves, separated by ribbons of reflective glass windows. The address of the building is 400 W. Congress St., but the wall, part of an addition completed in 1992, faces Alameda and is bookended by more red brick.

Looking at the building is like watching clouds - one notices something different with each glance. Stair steps, punch card, a parade of wiener dogs. The overall effect gives the impression of a woven basket.

"I've always been interested in patterns and the method of generating them - using numbers in various combinations," Gresham said of his creative process. His challenge: to blend function by providing maximum floor space, and form to generate visual appeal. Hence the undulating wall.

"We tried various combinations in brick patterns," he said. "The one we finally settled on had a kind of Southwestern feel to it, so that's why we chose it."

Got an oddity?

Is there something you've noticed while driving through Tucson that has piqued your curiosity? Or is there some piece of Old Pueblo history you've wondered about? Drop us a line, and we'll look into it.

Call the Star newsroom at 573-4232 or send an email to oddity@azstarnet.com

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or at 573-4191.

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