Bricks are making a comeback in new high-end buildings


Masonry has a time. Perhaps this is a symptom of glass tower fatigue, perhaps it can be attributed to a desire for a building material that has warmth and texture. Or maybe it’s the force of nostalgia.

Around town, in TriBeCa, Chelsea, Brooklyn and Queens, on the Lower East Side, Upper East Side and elsewhere, new developments sport brick facades, often with custom bricks, in some cases with those bricks. stitching arranged opposite – eye-catching patterns.

Previously, brick, usually red, was the material of choice for affordable housing, said Howard L. Zimmerman, director of the architecture and engineering firm that bears his name. “Now,” said Mr. Zimmerman, “the architects of the high-end projects are reinterpreting the brick in terms of style and size and in the design of the facade.

The Grand Mulberry in Little Italy, a seven-story, 20-unit condominium at 185 Grand Street designed by Morris Adjmi Architects and slated for completion early next year, is clad in specially red-orange bricks. designed. The overlay of hand-molded domed bricks are laid out in a pattern that could have emerged from a dot-matrix printer.

Hats off to the Italian aspects of the facades of the surrounding buildings. “Some of the brick elements we used are reminiscent of the masonry of the building across the street and other buildings in the neighborhood,” said Brittany Macomber, senior project manager at Morris Adjmi.

Another Adjmi-designed condo, 45 East Seventh Street, which is in a historic district, also has a masonry facade, in this case buff-colored brick, a palette choice that the Landmarks Preservation Commission noted in its certificate of approval, “harmonizes with masonry materials and building finishes” in the region. There is a single corbel at the base of the seven-story structure, a double corbel at the top, and a checkerboard-like pattern at its middle section.

Oversized gray bricks pave the Rowan, a six-story, 46-unit condominium in Queens. Meanwhile, red bricks from famed Danish maker Petersen Tegl (each brick bears the thumbprints of its maker) line the facade of 100 Franklin Street, a 10-unit condo in TriBeCa that was completed last year. Petersen Tegl also supplied the gray bricks for 180 East 88th Street, a 50-story condominium that opened in 2019.

Other brick projects: 66 Clinton Street, a 12-unit, seven-story condominium with gray brick that is slated to open next year; 40 East End, a 28-unit condominium with gray and charcoal brick patterns that opened in 2019; and Chelsea’s Park House, a 10 unit dark red brick condo designed by Annabelle Selldorf and nearing completion.

According to Andrew S. Dolkart, professor of historical preservation at Columbia University, the brick, long considered a symbol of privacy, has become and dated. “The heyday of the use of brick was in the 1880s. Bricks fell a bit out of favor at the turn of the 20th century,” Dolkart said. But then, in the 1950s and 1960s, “white brick became popular.

“I have seen a return to the use of clay-based masonry in recent years,” he continued. “I think there is a reaction to the homogeneity of these apartments that have been built in Long Island City: glass, glass, glass.

In fact, glass is generally the least economical facade material and brick the most profitable, said Joe McMillan, chairman and CEO of DDG, the real estate investment firm behind 180 East 88th Street and 100 Franklin Street. “But that’s if you use standard bricks,” he continued. “Once installed, the bricks we used were three to four times more expensive than the ready-made bricks because they were custom made. “

Context is a big driver. For the most astute architects and planners, the goal is not to slavishly imitate the historic architecture of the surrounding buildings, but rather to fit into the fabric of the neighborhood.

“You want to be respectful. You are using materials that have been used in the area, but you might have an innovation, ”said Leonard Steinberg, broker with real estate company Compass, who is responsible for marketing Park House. For example, the base of the buildings has the brick style that is likely to be seen on classic townhouses, but look a few stories higher and the brick is glazed.

Likewise, there were a lot of other masonry buildings near the Rowan site, “and the developer wanted something that spoke to the surrounding area but was also transformative,” said Wayne Norbeck, partner of the architectural firm. DXA studio, who designed the building. Thus, the horizontal and vertical pattern of masonry.

But for Mr. Norbeck and others, there is more at work here than the good neighbor policy. “I think there is a connection to humanity with the brick,” he said. “It’s an old material, and it’s the size it is so that one mason can put it in place.

Mr. McMillan put it more simply: “We wanted to give a nod to the mason of yesteryear.

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