Brick brise-soleil: eight Aussie perforated brick facades
“Materiality” a textual snapshot of bricks in contemporary architecture

We asked Brisbane architect Adrian Spence to briefly highlight the influence bricks as a building material have on Australian architectural design.

As Director of architecture firm Richards & Spence, a practice well-known for their brick-focussed restoration projects, we thought Spence was in a good position to take up the challenge of nutting-out some of the reasons why bricks have maintained their place in Australian architecture since white-settlement, and why they will continue to be used across the spectrum of buildings for years to come.


Hyde-Park-Parracks-Photograph-c-Patrick-Bingham-Hall.jpgDesigned by Francis Greenway, Hyde Park Barracks is one of Sydney’s earliest examples of refined architecture nods to Australia’s modern history as an occupied territory and convict settlement. Photography by Patrick Bingham-Hall.

Adrian Spence: Collective memory relies on the continuity of occupation.
As one of the oldest of all building materials, brick lends a cognitive echo of tradition to new construction, irrespective of form or detailing. In the absence of heritage, which may otherwise establish local character, bricks remind us of places we have been and understand.


burnett-lane-2.JPG32 Burnett Lane, Brisbane Queensland is one of the oldest buildings in the town of Brisbane. Richards & Spence architects inserted new bricks at various points around the restaurant/bar fit out for Survey Co. but maintained the majority of the original brick work. Image: Richards & Spence

AS: Many historic buildings accumulated over time. Our work seeks to continue and mend the legacy of brick construction contributing to an existing and future context.  We understand that our work is not a full stop and buildings will continue to evolve.  A subtle integrated approach matches as closely as possible new bricks to old, investing new buildings with the ambiance and dignity of an old neighbour.


Untitled-1.jpgIn a recent refurbishment of Peter Muller’s 1952-built ‘Audette House’ the now famous ‘snotted brickwork’ was left largely untouched while the majority of the house was extensively reinvigorated. Photography by Peter Muller and Michael Wee.

AS: For a building to be enduring in the minds of the people who use it, the design must allow for longevity of construction and character. In a world of changing aesthetics, brick endures aesthetically and materially.  At once the structure and the finish, brick transcends notions of style and culture and will survive our generation.



Frank Gehry chose brick for his first Australian project, the UTS Business School, as they provided a cultural reference to the existing brick buildings in the local precinct. Photography by Coptercam

AS: Materials play a crucial role in promoting the visual and tactile qualities, which loom large in our sensory experience of a place.  There is a potency of experience that comes from the rigour of a singular material palette.  As noted by Richard Weston, “…in locations that seem to embody most powerfully the conventional idea of ‘sense of place’, it is very often the pervasive presence of a single, readily available local material that are their most striking feature.”


Untitled-2.jpgWoodWoodWard Architects placed a contemporary spin on the old clinker brick typology at their Forever House in Melbourne’s Surry Hills. Image: Brickworks

AS: Brick construction has a history in all types of buildings, large and small, domestic and civic.
The familiar modularity we can hold in one hand reduces any building to a scale we can measure against ourselves.