Paulo showed us around the production site of handmade bricks in Sao Pedro de Corval, just before the sun went down, ending one of our busiest filming days in the Alentejo region of Portugal. The informal backyard was home to both the brick factory and another hardware workshop, including big tractors and machinery. The brick factory, however, hardly used any machines at all, only myriad moulds stacked on top of each other in endless arrays of shelves. Daylight fell in from above, through small windows shedding light onto the artisanal production process of strong hands working the clay. All the men were extremely friendly and patient and showed us their manual techniques in detail, there was an atmosphere of real expertise and precise repetition. We were particularly impressed by the kiln, which was loaded at the bottom with dried wood with the help of tractors. It burns around 10,000 bricks that leave the factory each month, thus beginning the supply chain as a building material supplier.
With Paulo we spoke about the process of making bricks, the unique beauty of the material, the danger of bricks breaking with the cold and about hand crafts becoming almost extinct in Portugal.
Paulo Ramalho is a partner of the Fábrica de Tijolo Rústico, located in Sao Pedro de Corval, a small town in the Alentejo region, close to the Spanish border. The factory produces handmade bricks for many building sites around Portugal, working together with artists and architects like Eduardo Souto de Moura and Alvaro Siza Vieira.