Brick has been a construction staple in many parts of the world for thousands of years, outlasting generations of people, architectural styles and even entire civilizations. But due to its long-standing ubiquity, it might be hard to imagine how brick can be made new and exciting for the 21st Century. Are today’s architects forced to simply rehash old architectural brick styles, having exhausted all other possibilities?
Fortunately, this is not the case. Architects are adding twists to classic bonds or creating entirely new brickwork combinations thanks to modern construction methods. The seven projects below prove that the 6000-year-old material can still appear at the vanguard of architecture.
By Silvester Fuller, Sydney, Australia
2022 A+Awards, Finalist, Architecture +Brick
Containing thirty-six apartments and six retail stores, the new 18 Loftus Street in downtown Sydney beautifully complements the newly restored heritage wool store next door, counterbalancing the latter’s large rectangular window openings with a similar style in a lighter brick tone. However, iin the finer details, the new building adds refreshing twists to the brickwork; among the lower windows, the brick curves into various orientations to capture the sun at different angles. This stretches the possibilities of brick by giving an impossible sense of malleability to the sturdy material.
By BLAF Architects, Gentbrugge, Belgium
When designing this new home in Gentbrugge, BLAF Architects wanted to respond to the growing trend of brick tiles being glued onto building like a wallpaper as an alternative to real bricks – a practice which they found to result in large amounts of non-reusable waste at the end of the building’s life cycle. Their final design emphasizes the structural and sustainable qualities of good old brick with a curving shell shaped house built using recycled bricks. The outer brick walls don’t depend on cross walls, columns or beams; their stability is merely based on their form and the brick bonding. Moreover, the use of re-used brick provides a sense of timelessness and maturity to the house.
By Cumulus Studio, Launceston, Australia
This new hotel in Launceston finds the right balance between innovative architecture and neighborhood assimilation. For one, the hotel uses locally sourced bricks (from the only certified carbon neutral brick factory in Australia) as a nod to the area’s industrial heritage. At the same time, the structure’s slightly staggered façade creates unique bands of shadows which change throughout the day depending on the sun’s position. The hotel thus remodels a centuries-old local architectural language with its own contemporary tilt.
By via., Hong Kong
Nestled between high rises in Hong Kong, this wellness resort is a peaceful sanctuary inspired by Chinese vernacular architecture. The resort consists in a collection of curving pavilions (made of traditional Chinese blue bricks) surrounding a central reflective pool. The brickwork might evoke a soothing effervescence, but the pattern is deceptively simple: the wall transitions from a hit and miss design to a header-stretcher bond pattern further up, with occasional gaps to keep the texture interesting.
By EL EQUIPO MAZZANTI, Bogotá, Colombia
Popular Choice Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Health Care & Wellness
Brick has been the defining feature of this hospital in Bogotá since its inception. EL EQUIPO MAZZANTI took this into consideration when designing this expansion to the hospital: a multistory glass structure veiled by a semi-permeable brick membrane. But unlike the rest of the hospital, the bricks don’t serve a structural purpose, since slim individual bricks are attached to vertical steel cables rather than stacked onto each other. They act instead more as a brise-soleil, cooling down the building and offering a sense of privacy to the patients within.
By Groupwork + Amin Taha, London, UK
Set between a Victorian townhouse and an Edwardian redbrick primary school, this apartment building seeks to start a new chapter in the rich history of English brick architecture with an unmistakably contemporary design. Though the slim and simplistic profile echoes the gabled Edwardian school next door, the conspicuously spaced block bond pattern draws attention to the brick façade.
By Studio Toggle, Salmiya, Kuwait
Studio Toggle achieves a striking façade on a restricted budget by transposing on a slight angle story-high brick segments to bring out the vertices. The effect is of modules seeming to slip loose from their joints.
By Cedrus Studio, Tehran, Iran
This new residence in Tehran celebrates brick — a staple of indigenous Iranian architecture — with a multi-layered khaki-colored brick texture combining stretcher bonds with vertical hit and miss screens slowly being overtaken by plants. The play with bricks continues inside, where visitors are greeted with protruding brickwork columns in the lobby and emerald-colored bricks speckled throughout the house.