The rawness and fundamental simplicity of masonry have preserved it as one of architecture’s most loved and utilised construction materials. Although ancient in origin, the humble brick’s range of textures, colours and shapes have guaranteed its longevity into contemporary architecture. Architects like Louis Khan and Frank Lloyd Wright have explored new applications of the brick to meet client’s modern needs and imaginations.


Shanghai Arts Centre | Photograph © Dezeen

Even in the 21st century, architects are still finding new ways to utilise the brick’s versatility. Here we appreciate some contemporary designs adopted by international architects who have built masonry its modern façade.


Mulberry Building | Photograph © William Hall

East meets West, old meets new: the brick is able to channel it. What we can see from a distance looks like classic masonry, but standing in front of it, creative modern twists emerge. Manhattan’s Mulberry House was designed by SHoP Architects. Black bricks are configurally placed at varying repetitious depths to create a ‘rippled skin’ look (Architizer, 2015).

Mulberry House 1

Mulberry Building | Photograph © William Hall


Mulberry Building | Photograph © William Hall

The subtle articulations of the bricks channel light in such a way that it bounces off the the building’s façade to create a sharp and intricately chiseled exterior aesthetic.


Shanghai Arts Centre | Photography © Dezeen

The talented innovators of Archi-Union Architects narrate a bond between “people and bricks, machines and construction, design and culture” (Archi-Union Architects, Dezeen, 2016) through their design of an art gallery located at Shanghai’s West Bund District.


Shanghai Arts Centre | Photography © Dezeen

Their methods epitomise the unique collaboration between traditional and modern technology: using simple, grey granite bricks synonymous with old buildings in the area, a fluid surface reinforcing an existing building was generated using computer software.


Shanghai Arts Centre | Photography © Dezeen

The computer software was also used to programme bricklaying robots to accurately place the bricks into the correct positions to achieve a wrinkled, 3D façade riddled with textural detail. The art centre’s new face places it right at home in an evolving district where converted industrial buildings sit alongside new cultural facilities.


South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre | Photograph © William Hall

Moving to India, Anagram Architects harnessed the rotational abilities of bricks to create a flexible form for the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre. Their brick design was ideal for their clients who were limited in resources and needed a low cost approach which satisfied both aesthetic and practical functions.


South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre | Photograph © William Hall

The final design is a complex façade which provided plenty of natural ventilation, noise reduction, and shade protection, the three necessities of living and working under the intensity of the Indian sun.


South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre | Photograph © William Hall

Written by Alice Pearce

Edited by Sonia Wan