Brick has a rich and colourful history that belies its humble, utilitarian purpose. As the preferred building block for over seven millennia, the composition, colour and application reveals as much of the people that used them as the buildings they form. From brick used during the Roman Empire individually stamped with the seal of the legion that formed them to the London’s red brick, whose fiery hue was used to define the capital’s buildings in the thick smog of the Industrial era.
Whilst there are methods that can be applied to create variations in colour and texture, brick is not usually the first choice for grand or landmark structures. However this is beginning to change. Architects and engineers are experimenting with brick’s composition and application, enhancing it’s abilities and cosmetic appearance. This is mostly prevalent in contemporary architecture, an area of the industry noted for its ability to successfully redefine context and content.
Here are a selection of our favourite recent examples:
1. ABC Building by WISE Architecture, Seoul, South Korea
Designed by WISE ARCHITECTURE, the ABC building is one of a number of ‘grey flanneled’ buildings that have gained popularity in recent years.
Located across from the Sanjung-Reung Park, which holds the tomb of the Chosun dynasty, this 5 storey building was designed to act as an Architectural Mountain with the top roof terrace providing the architectural summit. The use of perforated brick provides people with a continuous view when using the external staircase and provides an exaggerated appearance when viewed from the street.
Young Jan, Head Architect at WISE ARCHITECTURE explains:
“The black brick is the most visible material in the Building. The stair alley wall consists of a steel frame system and dry brick wall fabrication façade without traditional mortar masonry. It creates a transparent experience of a solid brick wall with multiple brick wall layers. A building starts with a piece of brick and was completed with a piece of brick as well.”
2. Turnmill, London by Piercy & Company
Pierce and Company’s Turnmill site sits on a prominent corner of London’s Clerkenwell Conservation Area. Focussing on the building’s unique position this former nightclub has been transformed into a 97,000 sqft two part, curved structure. Constructed from handmade Roman format Petersen Telg Kolumba bricks, the facade has been designed to reflect the masonry characteristics notably found in Clerkenwell’s warehouses.
Architect Petersen explains: “The delicate, light and shimmering colours and the bricks’ handmade structure give the façade the appearance of a refined, woven piece of cloth, while the volume and solidity of the edifice invoke associations with the centuries-old warehouses that have played a key role in the colourful history of the local area.”
Earlier this year Turnmill was awarded the Brick Award 2015 for the Best International & Worldwide Project by the Brick Development Association.
3. Darbishire Place, London by Niall McLaughlin Architects
Commissioned by London’s Peabody Trust to replace a East London mansion block destroyed in WW2, Niall MacLaughlin’s building offers a subtle reimagining of the original Victorian estate. Designed to compliment Henry Darbishire’s original development, deep white reveals have been added around the windows and balconies providing a elegant contrast to the brick facade.
Continuing Darbishire’s idea of ‘open corners’ the balconies are positioned within the building envelope, so as to retain a flat brick facade in keeping with the existing blocks. These balconies have openings on two sides to allow a maximum amount of daylight into the living rooms. At least half of the thirteen 1,2,3 and 4-bed units will be affordable dwellings.
Earlier this year Darbishere Place was awarded Joint Best Housing Design Award by the Brick Development Association.
NEW INNOVATIONS & TECHNOLOGIES
Whilst architects are experimenting with brick’s decorative aesthetic, engineers are also busy enhancing its abilities. Here a few of the best innovations:
1. Cool Brick
3D printing company, Emerging Objects’ latest innovation seeks to provide the death-knell to the air-conditioning systems. Their ceramic product, aptly named ‘Cool Brick’ is essentially a hybrid slab that comprises a wooden lattice and ceramic jar. Using a revolutionary porous design to absorb rainwater, when air is passed through the water retained within the micropores evaporates which produces a cooling effect to the home’s interior spaces.
Whilst this doesn’t offer the same level of precision as climate controlled systems, this demonstrates another significant step forward in the quest for sustainable design.
Sabin Design Lab’s latest Polybrick design is composed of interlocking ceramic bricks. Requiring no mortar and eco-friendly these are able to be created via 3-D printing – a feature that grants this product great credit in the environmental market.
Whilst this is impressive, the model’s latest innovation developed by the research lab at Cornell University, has a highly unusual composition. Constructed using a mixture of clay, maltodextrin and vodka, this combination allows the bricks to be produced for a paltry $4 each. Whilst this is not yet on the market, and requires a complex system of algorithms and equipment in the production process, demonstrations are expected within the next 12 months.