Design Notes Archive

Bricks in Modernism

Bricks in Modernism

When the Yves St Laurent museum opened in Marrakech last fall, it wasn’t the incredible fashion or the exquisite jewelry that most struck our fancy - it was the architecture. Designed by Studio Ko, the building may pay homage to high fashion but its striking façade is made using the humble brick. We’ve been thinking a lot about bricks lately and it’s led us down a rabbit hole of influential architects who championed the material during the Post War era. Visionaries like Danish architect Jørn Utzon, Americans John Lautner and Craig Ellwood, Britain Peter Womersley, and Australian Kevin Borland to name a few.


Despite their disparate locations, these modernist masters shared a common interest in bringing the outside in, and turned to earthy materials like brick, along with concrete, timber and floor-to-ceiling panes of glass, to blur the boundaries between a home’s interior and exterior spaces. Uniquely, they did so while maintaining a sleek minimalism that felt incredibly progressive and which still resonates today. Look to Utzon’s Ahm House in Hertfordshire or Ellwood’s Anderson House in Los Angeles and a collective sensibility is immediately evident. If you’re a fan of this style, there’s no better source in the UK than the estate agents at The Modern House. Established by former magazine editors from Wallpaper and The World of Interiors, their listings are a veritable who’s who of modern design icons currently or previously for sale here. Do a deeper dive with their bookof the same name, and get lost in the timeline on the company’s website – it charts their growth and would be a page-turner were it in print.

Back to contemporary design, Studio Ko is not alone in resurrecting an affection for bricks.  Top designers like Roman & Williams and Steven Gambrel regularly use bricks in their work, both in their raw form and as glazed tiles. The latter can move from organic to graphic depending on the palette and pattern combinations. At the Kingside restaurant in New York’s Viceroy hotel for example, Roman & Williams arranged black and white glazed bricks above brown leather banquets in a move that feels inspired by midcentury modernism and yet incredibly fresh for today. It just goes to prove that great design is timeless – especially when it’s rooted in one of man’s oldest building materials.   

©  Fondation  Jardin Majorelle/Photo Nicolas Mathéus; Ahm House / Tim Crocker