Few materials are as iconic in American academic settings as classic red brick. Durable enough to last for decades and virtually maintenance-free, brick has long been a first choice for university planners, who often give brick a place of honor on their lists of design guidelines. That popularity remains today, but architects also are exploring new ways to keep this traditional material fresh.
The Brick Industry Assn.’s Brick in Architecture awards have highlighted several projects over the last few years that illustrate the creative approaches architects have taken to make this ancient building material new again at a number of American universities. These designs all have the dual effect of relating the new facilities to surrounding campuses that might be a century or more old, while also making design statements intended to stay relevant for the decades—and students—yet to come.
Below is a look back at a few Brick in Architecture Award winners and the materials that enabled their outcomes.
New & Noteworthy
Kent State University sited its new Center for Architecture & Environmental Design as a bridge between town and gown, on the edge of its campus, adjacent to downtown Kent, Ohio. Aiming for LEED Platinum certification, Weiss/Manfredi’s architects selected brick that was produced locally. And they got their own lessons in how brick is fired and in how its color can shift based on how it’s produced from supplier Belden Brick.
For the University of Rochester's Goergen Institute of Data Science building KVA Vice Principal J. Frano Violich, FAIA and his team worked with Glen-Gery to develop a 12-in. version of their classic 55-DD brick. The new brick was used for the protruding headers, which were installed, cantilever fashion, to extend 8 in. out from the 4-in. thick brick exterior wall. While Violich says the patterning was easy to adjust, thanks to today’s design software, the installation involved a team of masons with decades of experience.
The student center at the University of the District of Columbia has taken to calling the plaza its “front porch,” and it’s easy to see why. It leads to a grand staircase, with steps sized for seating, that heads up to a new quadrangle and the rest of the campus, beyond. Its highlight is the undulating pattern of red and cream Boardwalk Pavers from Whitacre Greer. The dynamic patterning provides easy wayfinding to the student union’s entrance.
While the color is certainly eye-catching, it was the classic Snap-Clad PAC-CLAD profile that first caught the attention of Clarice Jones, project architect with Catania Engineering Associates, the restaurant’s design firm. She knew the standing seams on the 10,500 sq. ft. of Snap-Clad roof panels – complemented by a matching 1,500 sq. ft. of vented PAC-750 Soffit Panels – would emphasize the crisp lines of the building’s contemporary façade. See the full case study.
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