Brickwork is making a comeback on upscale New York buildings with handmade Petersen bricks making their presence felt in this developing story.

In a recent article titled ‘Bricks Return with Style in New High-End Buildings’ in the New York Times, writer Joanne Kaufman wondered whether this development was a result of glass tower fatigue, the hard pull of nostalgia or a brick’s warmth and texture.

Whatever it may be, one thing’s certain: Handmade Petersen bricks shine front and centre in brickwork’s welcome return.

Two Petersen brick projects feature prominently in Kaufman’s article: 100 Franklin Street, TriBeCa completed in 2020; and 180 East 88th Street that opened in 2019.

180 East 88th Street, in particular, is spectacular; a handcrafted brick skyscraper that connects the past and celebrates the future in timeless architecture.

Now a landmark building in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, this elegant 21st century 50-storey residential tower standing 160 metres tall features a concrete structure cast in-situ with facades clad in brick onsite, combined with parabolic concrete arches in the crown, middle and base.

“Brick turned out to be the most economical façade for this project due to its complex location mid-block making large crane ‘picks’ over neighbouring buildings costly and logistically prohibitive for a precast system,” Peter Guthrie, founder, chief creative officer, head of design & construction, DDG, explained.

“It was simply the best choice architecturally because the scale, texture, pattern and overall feel of masonry allowed us to juxtapose our massive, poured-in-place concrete arches and state-of-the-art windows with a material not only rooted in the neighbourhood’s history, but one that gives us a human scale and handmade crafted construction.”

Joe McMillan, chairman and chief executive of DDG, explained the use of handcrafted bricks more simply, saying, “We wanted to give a nod to the old time bricklayer.”

Peter Guthrie and his DDG colleagues made several trips to Petersen Tegl in Broager and, along with Christian A. Petersen, inspected the clay for their chosen bricks: Petersen K91 (95%) and K56 (5%) bricks, D91FF (99%) and D55FF (1%) bricks, as well as custom-made curved bricks to help delineate and accentuate the building’s front entrance.

180 East 88th Street wasn’t Guthrie’s first foray into Petersen bricks, having successfully completed his first Petersen brick building, 345 Meatpacking on 14th Street in 2013, another spectacular apartment building, also standing tall in a refined and functional partnership with surrounding buildings. At 11 storeys high, it also has a solid, light grey base of handmade Petersen Kolumba bricks (K91) combined with brick in a Flensburg format, and with beautiful textured brick detailing, including a change in brick pattern at the corners and various relief effects on the façade at street level.

180 East 88th Street may not be Guthrie’s last: “The old-world character and essence of these bricks are so incredibly useful for our schemes where we are building in historic neighbourhoods,” he reflected.

Of course, the return of custom brickwork in Manhattan is not just about being respectful of, and celebrating what’s already there. It’s about adding in that splash of innovation. And that’s what makes it so exciting and transformative.

Image credits: 180 East 88th Street, Richard Barnes, DDG | 345 Meatpacking, Tom Eckerle