Brick Awards 2019: ‘Twist House’ and interlocking dragon’s skin design among best of brick showcased in London’s architectural awards

Bricks are big business, and just like the Tudors did with their twisted chimneys and Victorian brewers did with their glazed bricks on pubs, having fun with them is hot. 

At tonight’s annual Brick Awards gala at The Dorchester hotel in Park Lane, winners will be announced from 350 entries — the highest number ever.

Everyone from huge place-making developers to niche boutique builders is in love with the little sand-based beauties, which is great news for the planet as bricks can be recycled after a working life that lasts centuries.

Brick-embracing architects are experimenting, laying them in patterns for strong decorative effects — whether mixing four colours; turning them at angles for a saw-tooth surface; running them vertically or in computer-calculated spirals; bespoke or machined; mortared with cement or lime, the innovation is endless.

The most striking entry, rightly in the Innovation category, is an amazing domestic extension called Twist House, in complex geometric spirals of red Michelmersh bricks.

With a nod to Gaudí, architects Urban Mesh experimented on their office roof to create self-supporting twisted brick arches, then used computers to check everything worked. In reality a two-storey structure with useful laundry rooms below ground, this creation is joyful.

In Individual Housing, two-storey Haringey House by Satish Jassal Architects using Ibstock bricks, stands out as an exemplar of cost-effective building on a truly tiny plot of only 310sq ft, with a tight £170,000 build cost.

Yes, it’s trim and unfrilly, but it’s also smart, light, and attractive. It could be done with further economies of scale. The housing minister should take a look.

Another individual home, this time in the Refurbishment category, St Thomas’ Apartment in SE1 by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris uses Ibstock London stocks for a truly remarkable, sensitive historic intervention. 

First, a lift was added to provide access to The Old Operating Theatre Museum within the Herb Garret of St Thomas’s Church, formerly reached by a terrifying twisty stair. Then an apartment was tucked into the 200-year-old church belfry.

An incredible feat, it is both beautiful and romantic. This shows off brick’s winning card: it is completely adaptable and democratic.

Among the Large Developments (above 101 homes), all the shortlisted projects have much to offer. Orchard Gardens by Panter Hudspith, part of the Elephant Park masterplan at Camberwell, offers 228 new homes, using various Ibstock bricks for an impression of building over time, and varied tones to reduce monotony on high blocks.

The form of the blocks themselves is playfully broken up. The courtyard sides sensibly use pale brick to maximise light. An engineer and skilled bricklayer advised at all stages and seven apprentices were employed.

Chobham Manor by PRP Architects is a stylish development of 800 homes in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the first phase of this massive regeneration programme.

Dark-toned Michelmersh bricks against pale stone window reveals look very smart. The garden walls are also brick, a welcome touch, and all homes have outside space.

In the Medium Developments, (26-100 homes) Gort Scott’s design for Pocket Living, Gainsford Road provides 45 affordable flats in Walthamstow, in pretty red Northcot Brick.

On the site of the William Morris school, the redness echoes Morris’s former home in Bexleyheath, the Red House. Its efficient design conforms to the Mayor’s design standard and has private terraces and communal gardens.

Quebec Way in Southwark, by Assael Architecture, has 95 flats above commercial space. A large courtyard with bird and bat boxes and a beetle loggery is laudable.

Pale buff Wienerberger brick was laid in a perforated pattern, rigorously tested and engineered to withstand wind and load, which makes charming façades and brises-soleils.

Monier Road by Pitman Tozer, in Fish Island, Hackney, ambitiously but successfully used four different Michelmersh bricks on its three blocks of 71 homes and start-up workspaces.

The architects wanted to hint at former warehouses on this industrial land, and there are private gardens at the rear. Again, pale bricks help illuminate the garden areas.

Most visual innovation is in evidence in the Small Development category. The Interlock by Bureau de Change uses sultry Staffordshire blue Forterra bricks.


Dragon’s skin façade: The Interlock by Bureau de Change in Fitzrovia

In Riding House Street, Fitzrovia, 5,000 bespoke bricks made in 14 moulds plus a further 30 cut versions gave 44 types. These were set angularly for a sort of dragon’s skin façade.

Every brick was modelled and numbered on 3D software to make sure it was correctly placed. A giant jigsaw that couldn’t be done on a huge development, it has great pizzazz.

Bridford Mews by Thomas Croft cleverly tucks three mews houses behind Portland Place, on the site of former garages. Here, the job was to blend in, brilliantly done with pale multi-cream Ibstock bricks and plentiful stonework.

White glazed bricks add the final elegant touch to a development that isn’t trying to stand out, but succeeds to blend in.

Last but very definitely not least, is a modern mansion block from Douglas and King Architects. With 12 flats, Finchley Road Apartments is slap-bang next to much-loved Grade II-listed St Andrew’s Church.

Three former applications from others had failed. But this inspired design, which echoes and complements the church, done in three mixed Wienerberger bricks, nails it.

All these projects display sense and offer inspiration. They’re all winners.

  • For more information about bricks, visit the Brick Development Association at

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