How the Brindley Arts Centre is breathing new life into a northern town

A showcase of Mario Botta’s most awe-inspiring brick buildings

How Elmington Estate has gone from outdated to highly liveable

TV presenter Dan Cruickshank on the everlasting nature of bricks

Why Stonebridge Estate has ditched its concrete space age look at last

Part two: Our brick bond series continues with a look at decoration

Brick protects against warming
Eco-study recommends high thermal mass buildings to combat soaring temperatures
With temperatures rising due to global warming, high thermal mass buildings, such as those of masonry, have the potential to be significantly cooler than their lightweight counterparts. This is just one of the principles enshrined in a recent study entitled “UK Housing and Climate Change: Heavyweight v. Lightweight Construction” undertaken by Chris Twinn of Arup for Bill Dunster Architects. Although such concepts have been understood for centuries, this is one of many recommendations in a study that proposes design responses to climate warming. Set to become influential among housing decision makers, the report examines the benefits of heavyweight, high mass construction versus lightweight, low mass alternatives. It cites the potentially poor performance of thermally lightweight construction and how, all other things being equal, heavy thermal mass (greater than 1500 kg/m3) is able to better absorb excess solar gains. Twinn says: “A lot of lightweight prefabricated construction will cook as the climate hots up. This will make the occupants uncomfortable and prompt them to install air-conditioning.” The report also stresses the importance of managing excess solar heat gains using strategies that include ventilation, shading, domestic appliances and having north-facing bedrooms. Characteristics that will help homes better absorb future excess heat gains are the inclusion of large, exposed areas of heavyweight thermal mass. So a brick cavity wall where the internal leaf is fairfaced brickwork and the ceiling exposed concrete, could be one way of increasing thermal mass. Underlining the benefits of heavyweight construction, architect Bill Dunster recently pleaded for a halt to the current “obsession with lightweight prefabrication”, warning that if housing is not built to the highest standards by 2050, it could need demolishing within 40 years. See www.zedstandards.com

Don’t forget to enter the 2005 Brick Awards
Aiming to uncover the finest architectural, engineering and landscape projects in the UK and abroad, the BDA has launched the 2005 Brick Awards. This year there are 12 categories, which include housing, public and commercial buildings, landscape, refurbishment and innovation to name a few. The closing date for entries is Friday 8 July. Architects, designers, engineers, artists, owners, developers, housebuilders, brick manufacturers and contractors are all eligible to enter. The awards have become a major event in the construction industry calendar and will culminate in a spectacular ceremony on 2 November at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London’s Park Lane. This year’s judging panel comprises experts from the brick and construction industries, as well as from the media. RIBA president George Ferguson chairs the panel, which includes: Bob Baldwin (past president Guild of Bricklayers); Mira Bar-Hillel (property and planning correspondent, London Evening Standard); David Birkbeck (chief executive, Design for Homes); Dan Cruickshank (consultant, writer, academic and BBC presenter – see page 11 for his comment piece); Geoff Flower (project director, Manhattan Loft Corporation); Robin Nicholson (Director, Edward Cullinan Architects); John Outram (Director, John Outram Associates); Bill Preston (Bovis Lend Lease/president of the ABC); and John Roberts (professor of structural engineering, Kingston University). For further details and to download an entry form, visit www.brick.org.uk or call 01344-885651. To book a table call CreatEvents on 0870-241 9902

Works for us
Terry Pawson Architects has won planning permission for this striking 220 m2 office development on an infill site in the heart of Wimbledon. The proposed Beulah Road Studios will house the practice’s offices and have an exhibition space on the ground floor. Intended as a catalyst for local regeneration, the £300,000 building features a Staffordshire blue brick facade and large panes of structural glazing. Completion is expected early next year.

Get your own copy of Brick Bulletin
Fed up of reading somebody else’s copy of Brick Bulletin? You can have your own regular copy of Brick Bulletin sent direct to you. Simply call the Brick Development Association on 01344-885651. Alternatively, this and past Brick Bulletins can be downloaded from www.brick.org.uk





Alton’s hushed addition
A recently completed £1.2m public library in Alton, Hampshire, has been built on a brownfield site and is a fitting addition to the historic town. Designed by Hampshire council, the building is constructed of handmade bricks and other materials that are sympathetic to the local townscape, yet maintains an unmistakable contemporary feel.

Feel-good art
This beautifully carved Hindi inscription reads “Very, very happy” and is part of Oxford-based Fusion’s participatory public art programme designed to get people walking by enhancing their environment. Artist David Little worked with various community groups to capture their sense of history and place. The insitu carving, one of many in various languages, was by Simon Keeley.

Annual lecture scores highly
Rather than stay home to watch Liverpool’s stunning victory on 25 May, more than 100 architects and specifiers crammed into London’s Building Centre on a warm evening to hear architect Nicholas Ray give a polished lecture on Aalto’s use of brick. The one-hour talk examined Aalto's buildings and his architectural philosophy and generated a lively question time. Given the success of this and last year’s lectures, the BDA is now aiming to hold the event on a twice-yearly basis. Watch this space for further developments.

Sustainability is the responsible use of resources be they human, physical or financial. Responsibility is shown by the publication of performance targets and regular reviews against these. The brick industry’s second annual review of its key performance indicators is due and the good news is that it will record reduced energy consumption and emissions despite an increase in production. Proof that the industry is serious about sustainability. One important development for the manufacturers of building materials is that specifiers are beginning to ask about the recycled content of their product. WRAP and CERAM are working with the industry to investigate the benefits gained from introducing powdered glass into the brick-making process, and some manufacturers have already used other waste materials in their processes. The use of secondary materials improves the sustainable credentials of the product. This summer marks the end of David Szymanski’s tenure of the chairmanship of the BDA. David has given strong and positive leadership to the association, which now represents more than 96% of the brick manufacturing capacity in the UK and Ireland. We are all grateful for the energy and enthusiasm he has brought to the post and wish him well. Michael Driver, director, Brick Development Association
editor George Demetri co-ordinating editor Joannah Connolly designer Sam Jenkins reproduction London Pre-press printed by St Ives plc ISSN 0307-9325



A retrospective of the work of architect Mario Botta, whose geometric forms – often expressed in brick – are celebrated across the globe


Enrico Cano


Centro Cinque Continenti, Lugano-

Brickwork clads the precast concrete panels that are anchored to the structure. Science College, Città della Pieve, Italy,

comprises housing in a cylindrical block and offices in two adjacent linear buildings. A large cut at the rear opens the cylinder to reveal a generous courtyard. Leeum-Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul,

Paradiso, Switzerland, 1992. Fundamentally a brick cylinder, this building opens up to reveal a piazza and an atrium at its core. The dynamic structure incorporates a mix of commercial and residential accommodation spread over 13,000 m2. Kyobo Tower, Seoul, Korea 1999-2003.


1998-2000. A contemporary reworking of a medieval fortress, this brick-clad concrete structure has three five-storey twin towers that express the building's functional requirements. Sited at the foot of a steep slope, the building has horizontal slits to provide solar protection. La Fortezza building, Maastricht, Holland,


Korea, 2002-2004. Set into a hillside, this building comprises two distinct volumes, one rectilinear, the other an inverted cone. Both parts feature staggered horizontal brick bands that make intensive use of soldier courses. The trees on top of the building symbolise flags and the merlons provide a historical reference.


This office building was designed to be a landmark with a medieval monumentality that would
Young Chea Park

contrast with neighbouring glass and steel buildings. A distance of 18 m between



the towers allows daylight to flood into all levels.

1997-2000. This 23,000 m2 scheme

Pino Musi


Pietro Savorelli

Arjen Schmitz





Gone are the grey high-rise flats of old – tenants on the Elmington Estate in south London now enjoy award-winning brick terraced housing designed by a team of top architects

Robert Greshoff Photography



Stack bonding detail at apartment block corner

enants who have been rehoused in the redeveloped Elmington estate must regard themselves as quite lucky. For in place of dreary high-rise living, they now have human-scale housing that includes an abundance of colour, form and detail, not to mention an emphasis on security. Located in the Camberwell area of south London, the redevelopment of the Elmington estate is one of five such initiatives undertaken in the area by the Peckham Partnership – an alliance that includes developers, housing associations, Southwark Council and various architects. Four years ago, a phased redevelopment programme began to move existing tenants into affordable new homes. To date, 134 homes have been completed. Architect BPTW has designed 73 of these and was also involved at the masterplanning stage. A third phase is planned that aims to provide some homes for private sale. Brick is the backbone of the new layout and stitches together the enormous architectural variety of this scheme. As at the Stonebridge estate – also reviewed in this issue (see pages 12-13) – the two- and three-storey houses are arranged as traditional street terraces and courtyards. Street corners are marked by medium-rise apartment blocks that are designed to act as punctuation points to the terraces. The architect has given the estate a traditional street pattern with the maximum number of front doors, public frontages and private rear gardens. These measures, along with the controlled overlooking between neighbouring properties, serve to increase the real and perceived sense of security that should help minimise crime. Similar measures used on other Peckham schemes have proved effective. Brick was chosen as being most representative of the local townscape, and to provide a durable, low-maintenance finish. It has been used imaginatively to provide different vistas that give the scheme the refreshing variety that is evident throughout. Its


appearance is maximised when contrasted with the timber cladding and render that are also used on the scheme, helping to give each home its own identity. Changes of brickwork colour are often used to signify advancing or receding planes – even if only by 25 mm – providing shadow lines as well as excellent locations for hiding movement joints. The overall effect is of layered elevations that are a delight to behold. Here and there, accent colour is introduced using delicious mint green glazed bricks that contrast vividly with the overall orange brick colour, particularly where used as alternating stripes. And simply projecting every fourth brick in a brick-on-edge course by 20 mm has produced an understated yet elegant dentil course. To complement the general stretcher bond brickwork, stack bonding is used intermittently to provide contrast around entrances, as a spandrel between paired windows, on projecting bays and to articulate exposed corners. Generally the brickwork is to a high standard, but stack bonding needs extra care in both setting out and laying and this could have been better achieved. Throughout this scheme, brick-and-block walls with 100 mm partially filled cavities were used throughout, in conjunction with monopitch roofs, beam-and-block ground floors and timber first floors. The Elmington Estate was named Best Public Housing Development in the 2004 Brick Awards and has also earned the architect a CABE Building for Life Silver Standard. In both cases, it is a deserving winner. For further details, call the BDA on 01344-885651

Diagram: Corners are boldly expressed by a 215 mm thick stackbonded external leaf with special corner bricks (see photo 4) 1 Orange brickwork interlaced with green brick and timber provide an attractive environment 2 Changes in colour, texture, shape and detail help give entrances individuality 3 The quiet, contemporary mews at Durfey Place 4 Major variations of roofline give the scheme interesting forms 5 Projecting stack bonded brickwork bays are outlined by glazed mint green bricks

Project team
client London Borough of Southwark architect BPTW Partnership QS Carlford Seaden Partnership structural engineer Brand Leonard Consulting Engineers brickwork contractor Galostar main contractor Countryside Properties BRICK BULLETIN ● 7

Seen from across the canal, the Brindley comprises an interplay of complex forms

ake architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner's advice and you’ll give Runcorn a wide berth. But much has happened since he wrote all those years ago of the banality of the town. James Stirling’s brave housing scheme, which attempted to inject some architectural life into the place, was sadly demolished in 1991. But a new arrival promises to give Runcorn a far wider architectural recognition that goes beyond James Brindley’s famous Bridgewater canal of 1772 and the dynamic steel arch road bridge of 1961. Completed in June 2004, the £7.2m Brindley Arts Centre is Runcorn’s very own performing arts facility and architectural showpiece. Funded by Arts Council lottery monies and the North West Arts regeneration fund, the striking building could have the sort of regenerative effect on Runcorn – albeit on a more modest scale – that Gehry’s Guggenheim has had on Bilbao. Architect John Miller + Partners specified brick not only to reflect Runcorn’s industrial heritage, but also because it is “robust and versatile”. The result, say the architects, is a long-life, sustainable building appropriate for both its location and its history. The Brindley has three main elements: a 420-seat proscenium theatre with full-height fly tower; a 120seat multifunctional studio with retractable raked seating for theatrical, dance, musical, cinema and conference events; and an exhibition and education workspace. Distinctly expressed, the three functions give the building an unmistakeably organic shape that even pilots descending into Liverpool’s busy John Lennon Airport are unlikely to miss. A top-lit, double-height foyer links the primary elements and follows the curve of the building. The dynamic space that results contains a bar, display area and seating alcoves, and at first floor level a café–restaurant enjoys a generous south-facing terrace overlooking the canal. Thanks to a smart detail which sees the glazing mullion fully recessed into the wall, the external brickwork makes an almost imperceptible transition into the foyer to form an impressive concave, fairfaced wall that is beautifully defined by the red and blue stripes of the brickwork. A bold main auditorium drum and 20 m high fly-tower are the generating forms of the building,


Alternate layers of red and blue engineering brick contrast vividly with the green auditorium drum




Okay, so it’s not Gehry, and this isn’t exactly Bilbao … Nevertheless, Runcorn’s sensational Brindley Arts Centre, designed by John Miller + Partners, could well have comparable regenerative properties – and it looks great. By George Demetri

Ground-floor plan
5 6
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 stalls stage studio foyer arts workroom bar loading dock dressing rooms


3 1

2 7



The foyer’s dramatic double-storey brickwork is enhanced by the ample top-lighting

around which the other facilities are arranged. Indeed, the first thing you notice as you come up the approach ramp is the play of forms that cluster at the base of the organically-shaped auditorium, expressed as a green-clad, metal-skinned drum. Red and blue striped brickwork, here gently curved, there flat as a pancake, invites the visitor to continue and, in the process, makes an abstract statement that is punctured only in a few places by windows of attractive proportions: four at ground floor level and the prismatic oriel of the first floor exhibition space. The overall effect is of a monumentality that belies the relatively compact layout of the building.

Brick is the all-pervading material. And you are reminded of it at every turn, even as you walk around to the service areas at the rear, where a succession of brick forms, such as the semi-circular service staircase or the enormous fly tower, provide almost as much geometric variety as on the front of the building. Engineering brick was an obvious choice, particularly given the canalside location, and the decision to alternate red and blue bands has helped tie together the building’s disparate forms. The effect is reinforced by the well-defined brick arrises and the dramatic use of recessed joints. Originally, the architects specified a subtle 3 mm recess but were persuaded by the contractor that 5 mm would be easier to execute. Yet it is still surprising that even at only 5 mm deep, the joint recess gives such a marked textural feel that it serves to reinforce the brickwork’s linearity. Ten different brick specials have been used. These range from pistol stretchers for use on shelf angles over door and window openings; radial stretchers used to form the tight curve of the rear service staircase, and bullnose cappings to the freestanding ramp walls of the café terrace. Naturally many of the special types had to be supplied in both red and blue. Brickwork workmanship is of a high standard throughout, although it is compromised by the areas around the café terrace where salts have leached out from backfill material and are causing unsightly staining. This is a shame and underlines the importance of effective tanking to protect the front face of the brickwork. Nonetheless, this is a minor point. The Brindley Arts centre is a worthy building and probably the best thing to have happened to Runcorn for a long time. It did not win a prize in last year’s Brick Awards, but it recently gained a Civic Trust Award, together with the 2005 Special Centre Vision Award for the best regeneration project in a town and city centre. And what Pevsner would have made of those, goodness only knows. For further information call the BDA on 01344-885651

Project team
client Halton council architect John Miller + Partners structural engineer Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners QS Faithful & Gould brickwork contractor G&J Sedden services engineer SVM



The eternal brick
Dan Cruickshank recalls discovering in his travels ancient brick buildings that are testament to the material’s incredible durability
ricks express the essence of architecture. They possess all three qualities that 1st-century BC Roman architect Vitruvius said characterise architectural excellence – commodity, firmness and delight. A well burnt brick of good clay properly mixed is incredibly strong, almost invariably of a beautiful mellow colour and can be put to many structural and decorative uses. Bricks, in the past at least, also possessed an almost magical quality. I suppose this was because they were a fusion of the four elements – clay transformed by flame or the fire of the sun into a virtually indestructible material that none of the four elements can harm. It was alchemy. And the soundness of a fine brick made it a symbol of eternity, an emblem of immortality. When walking through the 6000-year-old remains of Uruk in Iraq – a pioneering creation of the Sumerians and one of the world’s first cities – I found myself confronted by some of the oldest bricks on earth. They are made from sun-dried clay, dusty dull yellow in colour and slab-like in form with each about a foot square. They had been used to form the core of the vast stepped pyramid or ziggurat that formed the heart of the city’s temple area. This pyramid, perhaps as much as 1400 years older than the first of the Egyptian masonry-built pyramids – that of Djoser at Saqqara – was probably clad originally in harder material that has long since been looted for reuse elsewhere. The original cladding could have been especially hard sun-dried or even kiln-fired brick although it is probable that kiln technology was pretty limited 6000 years ago … It is no doubt for this reason that the Sumerians devised another solution. The site of Uruk is covered with tens of thousands of clay cones of various colours and sizes. Even the largest is considerably smaller than the bulky bricks and consequently much easier to kiln fire to its core. These hard cones will indeed last until the end of time and some I found still in situ, forming the weatherproof outer skin of temples built from sunfired brick. To my amazement, the patterns formed with these cones of different colours are those familiar from mosque design and Romanesque architecture in Europe – chevrons, spirals and lozenges, all of which ancient and sacred motifs appears on the early 12th-century transept and nave columns of Durham Cathedral.


As well as developing brick architecture, the people of Uruk also applied the newly evolved art of writing, using what is now called cuneiform lettering, to the recording of stories. The world’s first known book, the Epic of Gilgamesh, is thought to have been written about 4700 years ago and was rediscovered in the mid 19th century on hundreds of clay tablets. The text is not complete but what survives is remarkable and remains moving. It tells of Gilgamesh, a king of Uruk, and his quest for immortality – a goal that he eventually finds through architecture. Build well, build cities and temples and your name and fame will live for ever – and central to this immortality is the brick. The belief in immortality through architecture – expressed by the use of name-bearing bricks – became a tradition in Iraq, or Mesopotamia as it was called by the Greeks. As I walked through the mighty works completed by Nebuchadnezzar in the 7th century BC at Babylon and at the nearby ruined and remote city of Borsippa, I could not help but admire the wonderful pale yellow, slab-like bricks – 2600 years old but as hard as the day they were made, with sharp arises intact. Like the earlier Sumerian bricks, each was about a foot square and two-and-a-half inches deep and occasionally one would be stamped with an inscription: “I am Nebuchadnezzar, king of kings …” By stamping his name on bricks, a ruler would not only ensure his name would be read for centuries – and so ensure a form of immortality – but by signing bricks he literally built himself into the fabric of the country. He and the great buildings that give a people pride and national identity would become one. This was a trick not lost on Saddam Hussein who, in the 1980s rebuilding of Babylon, had many of the new bricks stamped with the proclamation that he was responsible for the rebirth of Babylon and was – by implication – the new Nebuchadnezzar. Bricks may appear the most humble of building materials but their unyielding strength has for thousands of years haunted man’s imagination so that they have become symbols of stability. Timber rots, limestone gradually dissolves, iron and steel corrodes – but well-wrought brick will last for eternity. Dan Cruickshank is a consultant, TV presenter and author of Around the World in Eighty Treasures published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson at £20 BRICK BULLETIN ● 11

… Long live the age of the brick. At least, that’s what they’re all saying at Stonebridge Estate in north London, where ‘futuristic’ concrete slabs have been demolished in favour of liveable brick-built homes

Peter Durant/Shepheard Epstein Hunter

ailed as “space age” housing by the local paper in 1974, the Stonebridge estate in Harlesden, London, is being demolished. The former concrete panel slab blocks – some as high as 22 storeys – are gradually being replaced by a stylish, brick housing estate comprising terraces and four-storey landmark apartment blocks. Urban regenerator Stonebridge Housing Action Trust (HAT) aims to rehouse every householder from the former estate and, in the process, help alleviate some of the old problems. These include 80% of households earning less than £200 a week and unemployment running at 15% on an estate with a rich ethnic and cultural diversity – but also with a history of street crime. Stonebridge HAT’s initial workshops allowed residents to influence the design of their future residences, such as choosing the internal arrangement or the finishes. According to Alain Head, director of architect Shepheard Epstein & Hunter (SEH), the residents aspired to traditional low-rise solutions on a human scale. To satisfy the residents’ wish for variety, Stonebridge HAT commissioned nine architects for different parts of the estate. On completion of phase one however, this was found to be impractical, so SEH was retained for the final two phases. So far, 750 units have materialised with another 300 currently on site. By the time the third and final phase is completed in 2007, a total of 1450 units will have been built at a minimum density of 100 habitable rooms per acre. Individuality is a key element throughout the design with every street displaying a distinct architectural vocabulary so as to foster a sense of belonging. Two sides of the same street are frequently different as brick, render, dark stained timber and galvanised steel railings are deftly combined to produce an effect that is as harmonious and uplifting as it is contemporary. Yet throughout this diversity, there is a common thread. Brick is used not only to unify the whole development, but also to group together buildings on the smaller scale. When complete, 10 different brick types will have been used over the entire development and each is designed to impart a separate identity to the area it has been used. Head says: “A typical Georgian or Victorian street in London invariably comprises significant areas of brickwork, timber and painted render. We have reproduced a contemporary version of this idiom, which was not popular initially as the residents had their own ideas about style. A group outing to Coin Street, however, soon dispelled any reservations they may have had.” Construction on this design-and-build project has involved both brick-and-block cavity walls and timber frame. On parts of phase two, the contractor has used brick and block for the apartment blocks and timber frame (with concrete ground floors) for the terraced houses. Phase three will be entirely brick and block constructed. Alain Head adds: “Brick is a friendly material: it has


the warmth that was missing from the previous buildings and has an honest appearance. Our use of brick reflects this: there are no stripes, soldier courses or other attempts to relieve elevations by changing the brick – we have used it as simple panels alongside other materials. At Stonebridge, brick shows its continuing worth as a robust, user-friendly and sustainable material.” For further details call the BDA on 01344-885651

Opposite and top: Brick is the predominant external walling material throughout the estate for both terraces and apartment blocks Above: Four-storey apartment blocks are used to terminate ends of terraces

Project team
client Stonebridge Housing Action Trust architect Shepheard Epstein & Hunter QS Dearle & Henderson engineering masterplan TPS Consult planning consultants Terence O’Rourke main contractor Countryside Properties CIP brickwork contractor Lee Marley Brickwork




In his second article on brick bonds, Mike Hammett focuses on
he simple, regular form of a brick is very versatile and allows a great number of bond patterns to be used. A few are distinctive, widely used and have names that are commonly recognised. The previous article on bonding in Brick Bulletin (January 2005) discussed the basic patterns used in traditional and contemporary brickwork. Many variations of the basic bonds have been devised, principally to give variety in the appearance of facing brickwork. In a few instances, bonding patterns have been developed in response to practical considerations. For example, to economise on the quantity of bricks used, rat-trap bond was devised. In its simplest form it is a variation of Flemish bond for use in one-brick-thick walls (215 mm), but in place of stretchers, the bricks are laid on edge to show bed faces, alternating with headers on edge. There are hollow spaces behind the stretchers, which were left to give the walling greater resistance to rain penetration and heat loss. For obvious reasons perforated bricks are unsuitable. There are variations that involve bricks laid normally (flat) between courses of bricks laid on edge; this form is known as Silverlock’s bond, or Dearne’s bond. These hollow wall bonds were introduced in the 19th century for modest houses and garden walls. Modern uses tend to be confined to freestanding walls. Properly set out and neatly built, all bonds can produce an attractive appearance. However, large areas of plain brickwork give an opportunity to exploit the more decorative potential of bonding. Frequently the effects are subtle, but when combined with the use of bricks of contrasting colour, striking effects are possible.

Large-scale effects

Several bonds only achieve their full effect when used on a large area because their distinctive pattern is enhanced by multiple repetitions. For example, in two or three storeys of plain brickwork in English cross bond, a subtle diagonal criss-cross can be seen. Some more decorative bonds depend on multiple repetitions of groups of several courses to generate their effects. Many are characterised by strong diagonal motifs and are referred to as “flying” bonds. It will be obvious that elaborate bonding is likely to present difficulties when openings, piers and short lengths of brickwork have to be accommodated. Where these features occur, it is generally preferable to adopt a simpler bond and restrict the elaborate bonding to unencumbered major areas.

Projection of bricks from the general surface, individually or in whole courses, can produce striking three-dimensional characteristics. Projections need not be large; quite small overhangs have a disproportionate effect, especially in strong lighting. Stability must be considered and stainless steel wire in mortar joints can be used to reinforce or tie back projected work.

Idiosyncratic examples
For aesthetic reasons, some designers follow the general principles of bonding and create brickwork of unique appearance. Specially designed bonded brickwork can also embody recessed and projected brick faces to produce highly modelled surfaces. Although some examples of especially decorative work may give the impression of being extemporised and created freehand, in practice that is rarely, if ever, the case. Detailed design on paper, preliminary discussion with the bricklayer and trials followed by skilful attentive bricklaying are essential.

Herringbone panels
Between the stud members of traditional hardwood timber framed buildings brickwork is commonly seen as infill panels. Sometimes it is a replacement for less durable wattle and daub, but it can also be contemporary with the framework. Because such panels are normally only half a brick in thickness and have no loadbearing function in terms of the stability of the structure, they are frequently built as decorative features – herringbone patterns being very typical. Herringbone and basketweave patterns are sometimes used as feature panels within plain bonded brickwork. They are usually formed as the half-brick outer leaf of a cavity wall or as a half-brick surface layer of thicker brickwork. In either case, ties should be used in the joints to secure the panel to the associated backing masonry. Stainless steel wire is recommended for modern applications.

Decorative brickwork resources
Bonding patterns and their variations are reviewed and illustrated in detail in Creative Brickwork by Terry Knight (1997) ISBN 0 340 67643 4. For detailed guidance on setting out and building decorative brickwork, including panels in herringbone and basketweave bonds, see The BDA Guide to Successful Brickwork (2nd edition, 2000) ISBN 0 340 75899 6.


their decorative potential

01 A variation of Dearne’s bond used for 19th-century estate cottages (some of the headers might be half bats)

02 Herringbone and diaper patterned infill panels to 16th-century timber framing

03 A “flying” bond with 12-course pattern repeats

04 Stretcher bond with two between three courses projected to give a strong rusticated appearance

05 Stretcher bond, but with waveform coursing produce a fanciful boundary wall at a west London school

06 Elaborate diagonal coursing and projection offer a unique appearance at the French Institute, South Kensington


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Alvar Aalto on what a brick is worth
lvar Aalto (1898-1976) expressed the coarser nature of brick on numerous projects, particularly those in Finland, such as at the Säynätsalo Town Hall (1949-52) (pictured). But also at Baker House, Cambridge, Massachusetts, (1946-49), where he used locally produced, handmade bricks for a rustic effect and even included burnt, mis-shapen bricks that are dotted around the building like currants in a cake. Aalto once said: “Brick is an important element in the creation of form. I was once in Milwaukee with my old friend Frank Lloyd Wright who was attending a conference there. He began: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, do you know what a brick is? It’s trivial and costs 11 cents; it’s common and valueless but possesses a peculiar characteristic. Give me this brick and it will be worth its weight in gold.’ That was perhaps the only time that I had heard in public, stated clearly and bluntly, what architecture really is. Architecture is the transformation of a worthless brick into something worth its weight in gold.”


Alvar Aalto by architect Nicholas Ray (Yale University
Press, £19.99) is due to be published in October. Available from The Building Centre Bookshop, tel 020-7692 4040 At Säynätsalo, Aalto uses brick as a natural element of the landscape

The contents of this publication are intended for general guidance only and any person intending to use these contents for the purpose of design, construction or repair of brickwork or any related project should first consult a professional adviser. The Brick Development Association, its servants, and any persons who contributed to or who are in any way connected with this publication accept no liability arising from negligence or otherwise howsoever caused for any injury or damage to any person or property or as a result of any use or reliance on any method, product, instruction, idea or other contents of this publication.


Maija Vatanen, Alvar Aalto Museum

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