Our Mano Bricks range has reframed architectural surfaces through the presentation of handcrafted bricks in stone, terracotta and glass. For the latter, we have teamed with industrial designer Tom Fereday, parlaying an already successful furniture collaboration into a first-to-market glass brick format.

A true artisanal offering, our Mano glass bricks are cast by hand using a combination of 70 per cent recycled glass and 30 per cent quartz sand, resulting in raw, uniquely textured organic surfaces. Offered in two shades and an expanding range of formats – including a traditional Roman brick and a gently curved option – our Mano glass brick collection was the recipient of a 2023 Good Design Award in the Product Design – Hardware and Building category.

Here, Eco Outdoor founder Ben Kerr and industrial designer Tom Fereday reflect on their experience bringing the glass bricks to market.

How did your collaboration on the glass brick collection come about?

Ben Kerr: Whatever we are doing, Tom and I seem to coincide with similar ideas. I started talking about bricks, and he said, “I'm working in cast glass, I've been working on objects, and I've got some ideas around bricks and blocks”, so I suggested we work together. Tom had some viewpoints around our standard long-format glass bricks, and we thought, “why don’t we start looking at curves as an option as well?” It was really a collaborative process between Tom and our business, but it was a very easy conversation because he had already done some exploration in that area, and we'd already done some exploration too.

Tom Fereday: From my perspective as an industrial designer, what came up was perhaps looking at how to take some of those narratives and go more three-dimensional, to almost work on a toolkit for architects and studio designers to develop their own forms from these designs.

Tom, what were some of the qualities you’d been exploring in cast glass that you were looking to bring to the Mano bricks?

TF: One of the things we have in common is that we really value the raw finish of materials. The raw casting of glass has a character to it and a depth of quality; you don't need to overdesign it – the most important thing is celebrating the material. When you work in building products, you are working on a product on a large scale, so it's important not to over-design, because on a whole wall it's quite significant. It was about trying to be constrained and work on the perceived value that the glass inherently had. Eco Outdoor had worked on open-poured glass bricks where each one had unique variations or imperfections, such as little bubbles. We also worked with 70 per cent recycled glass, so each piece is different, there's a real character to the product.

Ben, did you always feel that the bricks would have a handcrafted element to them?

BK: Yes, definitely. When you use quality materials and you allow those materials to be expressed well, they just get better with time, they become timeless. So, when you use raw materials and celebrate what they really are, it has a timelessness that I think resonates with people. It resonates from an aesthetic perspective and from an emotional perspective as well. If you see the glass bricks, you want to touch them – they're tactile. It feels like it wants to be touched as opposed to it wants to be just looked at. I think that's where Tom and I are aligned.

What prompted you to work with an elongated Roman shape brick?

BK: We felt like our thinner, longer linear format brick has more architectural appeal. If you look back, it’s what's worked best over a long period of time. We're starting by pushing the extremities; no one's ever done a long glass brick, so we wanted to start with that.

TF: From my perspective it was about maximising the celebration of material. It offers less broken block as you halve the number of visible joints across a wall. The appeal to me was having as much glass as possible in the piece, and I think there's a unique aesthetic to that.

Can you share some of the brick application ideas that you're excited by?

TF: I exhibited part of the new collection at Melbourne Design Week in May and the feedback was fantastic. It's been interesting because there’s been a large variety of interest across interior and architecture. We’ve had enquiries from interior designers around possible retail use – for example, as a bar or integrated furniture elements in building design – through to enquiries around façades.

For me, what’s exciting is that this one brick has evolved into a collection and now we're continuing to grow that collection. We're putting objects into the market that could be in a building for centuries to come. That whole conversation around materiality and longevity is important; I’m proud to say this is a product that can go into a building and bring a purity of material and quality.

Ben, what are you looking forward to?

BK: We’ve had an enquiry from New York for an artist to use the bricks to create a glass pyramid, and we're also looking at a project in a traditional apartment where they're wanting a glass wall to let in light. So we think the potential applications are pretty massive, but we're only just starting to see the way that could evolve and develop. We have a curve brick; we’re releasing a block, and we also want to do a hook curve. But our intention is to slowly release these forms as we learn, and we see how the industry responds.