Brick is the New Black

Written by: Michael Mattner

In the modern context, bricks are often used in modest low scale development; however, in the right setting brick can form part of an elegant composition responding to the prevailing architectural character of an area as well as potentially contributing to the future character.

Old Is New Again

Bricks have long been utilised as a building material, with fired bricks being used as early as 4000 BC and air-dried bricks being used much earlier than that. The Industrial Revolution saw the production and use of bricks rapidly escalate, and it is this time period which saw the humble brick leave an indelible mark on architecture and built form character.

Victorian terrace extension in North Melbourne by Matt Gibson Architecture and Design (Source: Architecture Australia, Derek Swalwell)

This Victoria terrace extension in North Melbourne highlights the elegance that brickwork can add to the modern form. The extensive use of glass at ground level allows the first-floor brick composition to float above in a simple yet sophisticated way.

The use of brick in this context responds to the existing immediate character given the two abutting properties utilise bricks for their extensions. The brickwork also responds to the character of the greater North Melbourne area where brick structures commonly piggyback Victorian terraces.

Man Made Meets Mother Nature

An excellent example of the use of brickwork to animate a building facade is the Bellbowrie Swimming Pool. These brick walls also contribute to the swimming pool being flood-resistant which was of the utmost importance during the Brisbane floods in 2011. 

Bellbowrie Swimming Pool by Bureau Proberts (Source: Architecture Australia)

This brickwork responds to the existing built form character of the area as the site is located in a residential pocket predominately comprised of brick clad dwellings. The brickwork also responds to the existing landscape character of the area as a pattern of the bricks is inspired by the flowering gums indigenous to the region. 

Outside The Box 

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) exemplifies the use of undulating brickwork to create a fluid form. A staggering 320,000 bricks were laid by hand for this project, and it is this attention to detail which results in the building's incredible texture. 

Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS by Gehry Partners (Source: Architecture Australia, Peter Bennetts)

The use of bricks in this landmark building highlights that brickwork can not only be used to respond to existing character but that it can also be utilised to establish a preferred future built form character. This building stands out from its surrounds in no small part due to the use of bricks as the resultant form, materiality and detailed design all contribute to the development being an emphatic landmark within UTS. 


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