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Contrasting Brick: 7 Architects Harnessing Masonry in Bold New Ways

These designers use pattern and color to achieve newness with a traditional material.

Jennifer Geleff Jennifer Geleff

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When working with traditional brick, it can be challenging to create exteriors that are both novel and contemporary. Nonetheless, the following architects use pattern and color in unusual ways to achieve newness with the material. Unlike tired suburban developments, which commonly use multi-colored brickwork to create the illusion of aesthetic diversity, the projects included in this collection thoughtfully apply the visual practice.

Creating texture and complexity with simple elements, each project incorporates vibrant shades and striking contrast. Spanning affordable housing, community centers and small village landmarks, they prove that brick can be utilized in fresh, imaginative ways regardless of typology. By garnering inspiration from the colors, movement, soils and textures of their surrounding landscapes, these architects aimed to achieve contemporary elegance while respecting and connecting with their surrounding heritage.

The sky above Asnières-Sur-Seine by 5+1AA alfonso femia gianluca peluffo, Asnières-sur-Seine, France

Located on a trapezoidal plot, this project consists of 144 affordable housing units, 39 social housing units and 1,180 feet of commercial space. The brickwork — which creates the illusion of interlocking units — encourages visual diversity in the urban setting.

Rabbit Hole by LENS’ASS architecten, Gooik, Belgium

Located on a farm in the sloping Pajottenland landscape, this stunning family home and veterinary practice is finished in natural-looking brickwork. Like a local castle, Rabbit Hole has become a visually strong and culturally defining element of the landscape.

Community Centre Westvletern by atelier tom vanhee, Poperinge, Belgium

For this project, atelier tom vanhee was asked to create two community centers in Popering, Belgium. Using multiple complementary shades of brick, the architects created a strong contextual and historical design which acts as a meeting spot for the community.

house sj by raf segers architect, Maaseik, Belgium

Located in Maaseik, Belgium, house sj is clad in vibrantly speckled red brick. In combination with finishing elements made from black aluminum, the home’s exterior is marked by a pleasant contemporary contrast.

Multipurpose theater pavilion Zonnewende by Reset architecture, Sint-Michielsgestel, Netherlands

For this project, Reset architecture created a multipurpose theater pavilion that was designed to purposefully connect with its surroundings. Made from four types of brick, the façade subtly mimics colors found in the surrounding soil. A color gradient, with sandy hues at its base, softens the transition from building to earth.

LANDMARK NIEUW BERGEN by MONADNOCK, Nieuw-Bergen, Netherlands

In a landscape where small villages are commonly identified by their church tower, Nieuw-Bergen was missing a clear landmark. To rectify this, MONADNOCK created a decorative building that is patterned with natural red brick and contrasting light-green hues, created using a cement wash.

Villa DBB by Govaert & Vanhoutte Architects, Knokke-Heist, Belgium

After scanning the natural and built environment in search of hidden visual patterns, Govaert & Vanhoutte Architects transformed the elements that they discovered into an inspired contemporary building design. A revived farmhouse and barn, the resulting project beautifully complements its surrounding environment.

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