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12 Unique Features and Elements of Brick Architecture

Bricks – often known as solid clay blocks, are given utmost prominence in the assembly of structures. They are the most versatile materials applied to any building design. This article explores the unique features and patterns of brick architecture.

Brick Architecture – Now and Then

From ancient times in the 1st century, Romans used bricks to construct nearly every type of building. Since then, prominent architects have adopted their proportions and techniques, and they used extensively the bricks for the residential building in their designs. They have articulated the brick facades with distinct patterns, bonds, and other features to enhance the aesthetics.

Before Modern Architecture, even utilitarian buildings, including residential and commercial buildings, featured ornate elements on the facades. But later, in the post-modern period, the structures with smooth surfaces, such as glass curtain walls, continue to rule the construction industry. While in recent trends, there is an increased interest in the age-old material: brick, which has a unique texture with a rustic look.

Why brick is compatible with facades?

  • Distinct texture and articulation.
  • Each brick can be laid differently to achieve the desired pattern.
  • Color and texture variations for each unit.
  • We can create complex patterns using bricks.
  • The texture and profile joints create soft and subtle shadows that add interest.

Features of Brick Architecture

1. Color of Brick

The color of brick depends on various factors such as clay types, mixing of materials, duration and setting pattern in a kiln, etc. Popular colors include white, grey, and different tones of red, tan, and brown.

This distinct feature of brick is one of the most significant factors governing the aesthetic quality of brick facades to look warm and inviting. The color of brick greatly influences the atmosphere it emits. White and light colors give a minimalistic feel, whereas grey and tan colors tend to present a rustic feel, and red-brown shades add a traditional vintage and earthy touch.

Brick Architecture

Mixing of colors in brick facades

Architects have given a thought to using different tints and shades of brick for this primary school in Belgium.

Brick architecture
Primary school ZP by dmvA Architecten, Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Belgium

2. Surface Finishes and Brick Architecture

The surface finish has the ability to penetrate the water vapor to pass through it(breathe). Natural brick surfaces or matte finishes are generally moisture-permeable when compared to smooth finishes. Glazed finishes create impervious surfaces.

Image source – Houzz.com

3. Brick Texture

Brick has a distinct texture compared to diverse materials in the construction industry. Fine textures appear to be smooth, while coarse textures appear rough. When we visualize highly textured brick facades from a longer distance, the texture is obscure, but a diverse appearance that is different from the smooth and flat surface is visible.

The brick house; Image source – surfacesreporter.com
Brick architecture

4. Profile of Mortar Joints

Mortar joints in addition to texture, create soft and subtle shadows that add interest to the façade. Also, they can have as significant effect concerning aesthetics and functionality. They typically range from 1/4″ to 3/4″ wide in brickwork.

Profiles of Mortar joints include :

  • Weathered – Clean and ordered appearance, creates shadows.
  • Raked – Emphasizes the joints and outlines, and creates shadows.
  • Flushed – Creates a smooth Appearance as joints are not visible.
  • Extruded – Gives a rustic and textured appearance.
  • V joint – Visible outlines, water-resistant, creates shadows.
  • Struck joint – Not water and weather-resistant and creates shadows.
  • Concave joint – Creates a smooth appearance, and Resists rain penetration.
  • Grapevine joint – Creates additional lineal detailing, and gives an undulating appearance, commonly used for antique finish brickwork.
  • Beaded – Creates additional linear detailing, the extruded portion creates interesting shadows.
Image source – Wikipedia

The V-shaped joints and raked joints make the outline of brick courses highlight/accentuate, whereas, in the flush profile, the joints are hidden and give a monotonous appearance.

Two or more different types of joints can also be combined in a single façade to create a distinguished look.

Brick Architecture
Experimental house by Alvar Alto
Experimental house by Alvar Alto

Patterns in Brick Architecture

5. Orientation of Brick unit and courses

Recent trends in brick facades accentuate and create a zig-zag appearance if the brick unit rotates at a 30 or 45-degree angle.

Image source – elledecor.in ; Photograph by Andre J Fanthome
Photograph by Andre J Fanthome

Changing the orientation and placement of one course with another adjacent course creates a twisting effect.

6. Brick Bond Pattern

The most common brick bonds in bricklaying are the Running bond, Flemish bond, English bond, herringbone, and Stack bond. Different types of brick bonds create distinct appearances. For instance, a stack bond creates a monotonous appearance whereas a herringbone pattern creates visual interest.

Image source – Pinterest

7. Special Shapes in Bricks

Special shapes include but limited to are Bullnose bricks, Coping and Capping bricks, Angled and Cant bricks, Radial bricks, Plinth bricks, etc. These shapes can depend on the design provided by architects and also the manufacturer’s requirements.

Image source – ketley-brick.co.uk

Elements in Brick Architecture

Additional elements in brick construction especially in facades break the monotony and create an emphasis. They include Arches, Banding, Reveals, Quoins, Vaults, etc.

8. Arches in Brick Architecture

The use of brick arches is mostly seen in the times of Roman and Egyptian Architecture. The brick arch is an ideal example of masonry construction that reflects artistic skill and flair. Subsequently, they continue to spread as architectural feats that reveal the magnificence and splendor of the structure. However, there is a substantial decrease in the construction of arches in present times.

Its main function is to take the internal stresses uniformly. In addition to their efficient function, arches also provide a dramatic appearance.

Brick architecture
Image source – Pinterest

9. Banding and Reveals

Banding in masonry construction creates horizontal emphasis. It can project from the plane of the wall or can be in line with the plane. It can be of different bond patterns or a different material such as stone, precast blocks, terracotta, or any other material to accent the brickwork. Even bricks of distinct colors create a visual effect on the walls.

A variation in banding creates reveals. Reveals create linear articulation either horizontally or vertically. On the other hand, they create prominent shadow lines.

Brick architecture
Image source – imiweb.org

10. Quoins

Quoins adorn the corners of a building that act as ornamental accents. Even they add aesthetic detail to the corner of the façade. They can be of different materials like natural stone, cast stone, terracotta, etc.

Brick quoins are often projected from the plane of the wall, however different materials of quoins are flushed with the wall as the difference in color provides required emphasis.

Quoining on the corners of Palazzo Aragona Gonzaga, Rome Image source – Wikipedia

11. Cornices

Cornices are horizontal decorated projections at the top of the walls that provide protection to the wall surface. It acts as a visual crown for a building. Additionally, this small-scale projection in size helps deflects rainwater away from the wall.

12. Vaults

Just as arches create a dramatic appearance, vaults also create an exemplary dramatic appearance. Types of vaults such as barrel vaults, Groin vaults, Rib vaults, and Fan vaults create mesmerizing views whether they can in interiors or exteriors.

IMAGE: © NIGEL YOUNG AND THE NORMAN FOSTER FOUNDATION

These features and elements of brick create a rustic feel. Simultaneously adds a dramatic appearance, magnificence, and splendor to the brick structure. Moreover, bricks are known for their elegance and continue to maintain the desired aesthetics for ages.

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