Talking tradition and timelessness: A pick of some of the best brick buildings from 2021

Presenting STIR's round up on brick architecture that elevated the mundane and dissolved boundaries between vernacular and contemporary.

by Zohra KhanPublished on : Dec 23, 2021

"Even a brick wants to be something. A brick wants to be something. It aspires. Even a common, ordinary brick... wants to be something more than it is.”

– Louis Kahn

Home conjured within foreign soils, enclosed inward-looking skins playing with the ideas of opacity and porosity, and humble celebrations of tradition and simplicity manifested through the primary materiality of brick are some of the aspects of the many projects we featured in 2021. From country houses, small scale residences to hotels, restaurants, and community centres, this year we saw not only intriguing contemporary applications of brick in architecture and interior design, but also discovered unique spatial experiences that evoked the beauty in bare minimum. Looking back, we pick five such projects that caught STIR's attention.

1. Shikor Country House by Spatial Architects
Location: Near Chattogram, Bangladesh

  • The house’s cavaedium houses a stepped pool of water that mimics a local “jolghat” - a screened pond with stairs for females to bathe | Brick Architecture Round up | Bangladesh | STIRworld
    The house’s cavaedium houses a stepped pool of water that mimics a local “jolghat” - a screened pond with stairs for females to bathe Image: Asif Salman
  • Shikor’s front façade in terracotta bricks | Brick Architecture Round up | Bangladesh | STIRworld
    Shikor’s front façade in terracotta bricks Image: Asif Salman

Built in the rural countryside of Bangladesh and realised almost entirely as an exposed brick architecture, this country home known as Shikor is an inconspicuous architectural intervention that celebrates its simplicity: in form, material, and style.

The house showcases the handcrafted workmanship of local artisans, and its latticed, layered brickwork is reminiscent of a bamboo hand fan. Despite being composed of visually stationary volumes, the outlying perforated brick walls add visual as well as literal lightness. Coupled with the skylights lighting various spaces of the house through narrow overhead orifices, each corner is converted into “a living museum of light and shadow”, as stated to Naimul Ahsan Khan, founder and principal architect at Dhaka-based Spatial Architects.

2. Casa di Langa by GaS Studio and Parisotto + Formenton Architetti (P+F) 
Location: Cerreto Langhe, Piedmont, Italy

  • The rhythmic brick screen that acts as a filter ensuring shade and ventilation | Brick Architecture Round up | Piedmont | STIRworld
    The rhythmic brick screen that acts as a filter ensuring shade and ventilation Image: Alberto Strada
  • Alberto Strada | Brick Architecture Round up | Piedmont | STIRworld
    Casa di Langa at night Image: Alberto Strada

Conceived by the Milan-based firms whose collaboration executed the overall adaptive reuse of the existing structure, this hotel design is inspired by the rural and historic architecture of the Piedmont region and integrates local building materials to envelope the building. The design team has reinterpreted the traditional elements such as the arched porticos and the external corridors with a rhythmic brick screen that acts as a filter ensuring shade and ventilation. The bricks and the red roof tiles are archetypal elements of the region, and these allow the structure to be perceived as an example of both vernacular and contemporary architecture.

3. Gallery House by Abin Design Studio
Location: Bansberia, West Bengal, India

  • The multipurpose Gallery House caters to a locality of Bansberia in India | Brick Architecture Round up | India | STIRworld
    The multipurpose Gallery House caters to a locality of Bansberia in India Image: Edmund Sumner
  • The patterned, terracotta clad skin; the masonry is inlaid with ceramic blocks | Brick Architecture Round up | India | STIRworld
    The patterned, terracotta clad skin; the masonry is inlaid with ceramic blocks Image: Edmund Sumner

Intended originally as a garage, the two-tiered Gallery House designed by Kolkata-based Abin Design Studio is a multipurpose community centre built for the locals of Bansberia. Inspired by the burnt brickwork of a 200-year-old temple in the region, this Indian architecture reveals its contemporary interpretation in the form of exposed brick masonry walls inlaid with ceramic blocks.

Terracotta bricks were obtained from a riverside brick factory nearby, while rejected ceramic blocks were procured with the help of a local ceramist. In conjunction, these two materials wrap the Gallery House’s concrete skeleton, aided by the finesse and skills of the local building masons.

4. Intermediate House by Equipo de Arquitectura
Location: Asunción, Paraguay

  • A view of the central court within the house | Brick Architecture Round up | Paraguay | STIRworld
    A view of the central court within the house Image: Federico Cairoli
  • A jack-arched roof canopy extends out from the front façade | Brick Architecture Round up | Paraguay | STIRworld
    A jack-arched roof canopy extends out from the front façade Image: Federico Cairoli

Seated on a narrow 190 sqm plot, the most identifiable feature of this residential architecture is its protruding roof, characterised by rhythmic jack-arched vaults, beneath a permeable brick screen which defines the façade design. Perforations in the rippling brickwork allow a glimpse of the interior beyond. Conceived as a big flexible space, the whole terrain as per the project architects can be integrated at once, or be divided into two or three different spaces, some more private than others.

5. Cangahua House by Diez + Muller Architects
Location: Tumbaco, Ecuador

  • South Elevation of Cangahua House | Brick Architecture Round up | Ecuador | STIRworld
    South Elevation of Cangahua House Image: Courtesy of JAG Studio
  • Interior view of the corridor | Brick Architecture Round up | Ecuador | STIRworld
    Interior view of the corridor Image: Courtesy of JAG Studio

One of the strongest and most visually appealing elements of the project is perhaps its brick exterior wall. Moving between complete walls and porous lattice, the brick exterior creates a pattern of solids and voids much like the cut-outs create a volumetric variation in mass and voids. Designed by Diez + Muller Architects, the project in Quito, Ecuador, is a courtyard house quietly hidden within its context, its overall form referencing the large landscape of the region while the massing is driven by the immediate landscape.

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