A Brick in modern architecture is the most treasured building material for its timeless, versatile, and ever-evolving nature. Brick has remarkable qualities and numerous masonry uses which have some of the greatest architects of the modern era, like Louis Isadore Kahn and Frank Lloyd Wright, created notable brick buildings. In modern times, brick architecture allows the architects to explore its unique rawness, and various colours, textures or shapes.
Brick is an inexhaustible, earthy and natural building material that almost dates back to around 7,000 BC. It is a more preferred building material as it is eco-friendly, durable, and offers permanence, strength, style, stability, as well as security and design integrity. Brick architecture creates a pleasant microclimate, and a habitable oasis at different times of the year. Modern architects have found innumerable ways of designing with bricks that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, ‘Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins.’
Here is a list of some of the myriad ways of using Brick in Modern Architecture:
1. Exposed Bricks | Brick Buildings
From the reddish-brown, rustic tones to the warm hues of orange exposed brickwork have an unmistakable charm and envelop a place to make it space. There are many examples of the iconic buildings designed by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and Laurie Baker. Modern architects have always admired the beauty of exposed brick buildings that are losing their essence in conventional construction taking place nowadays, and the brickwork ends up covered with plaster or paint.
The fall reminiscing colours of the exposed brick walls add textures and contrast to the contemporary designs. They have a rough, raw and organic finish which gives the building a definite character. The interior finishes either amplify, balance or complement the features of the design. Exposed brick buildings help to avoid any pollution from the manufacture of additional material, reduce the cost, and also give it a raw finish.
2. Weathered Bricks
Usually seen in historic renovations, the original brickwork is left as it is to have a rustic legacy in the building. Weathered brick architecture often holds a story, which connects people with the past and the present. It has functional, contemporary design solutions while being sensitive and respecting its history. This brick masonry gives the brick walls a dramatic look and becomes a backdrop for the modern finished or unfinished features that inhabit the space.
Weathered bricks reflect the simplicity of the forms and proportions of the building. The transparency of the raw brick masonry used allows the original heritage of the building to become a prominent part of the design. This type of brick architecture is quite desirable for apartments, restaurants with rustic themes, or stores, often exterior brick facades as well.
3. Coloured Bricks | Brick Buildings
Bricks are available in different colours that are visually very captivating and can be of alternative horizontal or vertical layouts. The colour of the bricks creates endless possibilities for a designer and full freedom to have a variety of aesthetic outcomes. They can influence the atmosphere it emanates that ranging from minimalistic white bricks to rich, earthy tan bricks.
The colours affect the psychology of the users of the building, so it becomes very crucial to have a theme which fits with the purpose. Bricks are also stained, which is a technique to maintain rather than mask the original texture of the bricks. It is ideal for the exterior façades, as it has permanent effects, low maintenance, and is less prone to water damage. The following are the popular colours of the bricks that are available:
Red bricks are usually associated with old or classical architecture. It is the traditional colour of the bricks, which creates a vintage aesthetic. Red brickwork attracts attention and produces a distinctive style of the area. Apart from traditional architecture, it adopts an old character to a new building or neighbourhood.
ii. Brown or Tan | Brick Buildings
Brown or Tan coloured bricks are quite similar to red bricks, But they differ noticeably in their uses. These bricks are used in buildings to create an essence of a timeless, earthy, and natural aesthetic. Often mixing of red, tan or brown to generate a unique intermediate colour to the buildings is done. These shades merge with the landscapes and stand out as well while bringing comfort and balance to the design. They add a sense of strength and solidity to any facade or interior.
White bricks create a clean, minimal and modern look. This brickwork aims to make a space chic as well as vintage. Usually, used in stores, restaurants, or apartments, sometimes it is also used in religious buildings, which generate a calm environment. The white colour known for its reflecting properties keeps the interior cool. This type of masonry makes space appear larger and very lively when used with vibrant colours, plants, or furniture. White brick architecture also creates an undulating optical effect.
Black coloured bricks form a sleek and modern style of design. Warm, vibrant colours like shades of yellow or red punctuate the black brickwork and create a visually appealing contrast in the building. The black colour generates a feeling of smaller rooms and absorbs the heat that gives warmth to the spaces. It also accentuates the internal differences in texture and pattern.
v. Miscellaneous Colours
Other than the afore-mentioned colours, bricks are available in grey, pink, or orange colours too. These shades are less common, and since there is no single natural colour, they have less defined features. Colours depend on the location, local availability of the materials, the temperature while baking the bricks, etc. Chemical properties, like iron or lime content, also change the colour of the bricks.
4. Brick Arches and Vaults
Arches and vaults go way back to Roman times. Brick arches facilitate long spans by supporting the vertical loads mainly by axial compression. Gothic, basket-handle and flat arches are some of the famous types of brick arches.
Brick vaults can have a span of 30m. Notable uses of such vaults are in industrial buildings, workshops, factories, or warehouses. These can either be pre-fab or constructed on-site. They also have a low cost and easy assembly. A famous vault made up of bricks is the Catalan vault also known as the Valencian timbrel Vault. It became a feature of Spanish architecture in the 19th century. It is a simple vault that is constructed by laying multiple layers of bricks and has tensile strength spread out in all directions.
5. Undulating Forms or Facades
i. Rippled or Parametric Façade
These types of undulating facades form when technology and craft combine. In this, the process of the positioning of the bricks is through an augmented reality interface. The placement of the bricks is according to the digital blueprint and computationally derived spatial model. Variations in the amount of mortar used to create the overall pattern make the rippled effect more prominent in such façades.
Over time, bricks have undergone technological progress in which it has been adapted to the new future requirements to create sustainable space and also have successively turned into a high-tech product.
In parametric brick façades, the brick masonry curves or folds like a soft fabric. The bricks are set in horizontal courses and chiselled or cut to create the desired shape. In such undulating forms, the rough or unfinished texture of the surface emphasises the bricks and creates a wave-like pattern.
Sometimes the brick masonry has rat-trap bonds that, when laid with a rotated vertical orientation, become twisted in their form. This technique of brickwork creates a cavity and decreases the number of bricks used. Rat-trap bonds also increase thermal efficiency. Such twisting forms can also add volume and privacy to the design.
These brick forms look like the scales of a snake or a bark of a tree, as they usually omit any vertical joints and consist of bricks in an outward twist. This technique harnesses the flexibility of bricks and subsequently creates complex façades.
6. Merging Bricks with Other Materials | Brick Buildings
Finished or unfinished brick walls, floors and ceilings when merged with materials like wood, steel, glass or concrete, gives the building a modern look that highlights as well as balances its features. Brick architecture of this kind mostly has an aesthetic of the rural times while others have that of the industrial age, which creates a contrast between the warm brick walls and sleek wooden, metal, glass or raw concrete features or remnants of the building. Brick ceilings are very rare, but they create a shining centrepiece for a room.
The idea is to amalgamate the old brickwork and the new elements of the design in a seamless manner. Using these aspects to accentuate the overall design is the modern-day definition of sustainability. While this increases the durability of the weathered brickwork, it also creates stability of value and saves resources.
7. Perforated Patterns
Perforated or also known as Hole-punctured bricks, bring natural light and fresh air inside. These patterns or jaalis increase indoor air quality with proper ventilation and make the spaces bright and airy. The brick masonry was arranged in artistic ways with solids and voids of latticework. It is either irregularly arranged to create an unfinished look or placed in a traditional gridded formation for a sleek look.
They generally have low cost and high functionality. Most perforated patterns or jaalis form a permeable building envelope with slight gaps to allow light and air filter through. It also creates a visual barrier and separates the formal spaces from informal ones.
8. Artworks or Sculptures | Brick Buildings
The integration of artworks, installations, pavilions or sculptures into architecture is quite intriguing. Certain soil types, like available in Carolina, USA, are suitable for making sculptures with bricks. There is a lot of scope for making 3-dimensional sculptures and experimenting with bricks. They become incredible works of art that define a culture where the sculptors carve or mould brickwork making these public artworks or sculptures a part of our daily lives.