When brick is a feature material used in a home design, it’s most likely to be selected for its consistency and rich red colour. But not all brick has these valued characteristics.
Take Chicago common brick, for example, which has colour variegations and irregularities due to the composition of the clay sourced in Lake Michigan and the way it is fired.
As a result, these bricks have usually been treated as an unattractive, cheap and abundant resource, and banished to places obscured from the street such as side and back walls, chimney flues or as structural support behind facades.
When the owners of this home first approached architect Lawrence Scarpa, they’d seen a home he’d designed in steel and wanted something similar.
“The site is in the Chicago area, with its rich history,” says Scarpa. “And because brick plays such a key part in Midwest and Chicago culture, I really wanted to use it in the design.”
However Scarpa wasn’t prepared to use Chicago common brick as a prosaic building material confined to out-of-sight areas. Instead it takes centre stage in his design, both from the street and within the house itself.
“I wanted to take something people usually viewed as garbage and turn it into gold,” he says.
“Brick walls wrap the site, and the L-shaped house. Think of it like a jewel box, with the house like a jewel sitting within a brick box.”