Products > Brick

RIBA Core Curriculum
- Design, construction and technology

Knowledge level
- General Awareness

Almost everyone knows that brick is one of mankind’s oldest and most durable building materials. Maybe that is the reason why it is sometimes overlooked in ‘modern’ architecture, despite its countless creative design possibilities.

In this section
- Brick sizes, formats and inventive uses
- Mortar and the impact it has
- Special bricks and their characteristics
- Examples of creative projects

Navigate through each step of the CPD using the left and right arrows to review the content. At the end of each section are some questions, these are required if you wish to obtain a certificate upon completing the course.                     


Brick size has become a key aesthetic choice in achieving an alternative look and feel.

Size Formats

Standard metric brick size adopted in 1970’s.

Imperial size bricks made in the late 19th/early 20th century were larger than modern bricks and are therefore still made for restoration purposes.

Demand is growing for formats that differ from standard UK dimensions.

Size Formats

  • Standard UK size 215 x 102.5 x 65mm
  • 73mm bricks available for coursing in with old imperial 2 7/8 size bricks
  • Smeed Dean Imperial – 228 x 108 x 68mm
  • European size formats – e.g. Waalformat (WF) 210 x 100 x 50
  • Roman – from 440mm to 511mm long

Roman Module

Robie House, Chicago, 1910, Frank Lloyd Wright
Regarded as the greatest example of his ‘Prairie’ style.

Roman module bricks were used to emphasise the horizontal.

Cream coloured mortar was used on the horizontal joints and the small vertical joints were filled with a mortar colour that matched the brick.

Product Orientation

Bricks don’t have to be laid in their usual orientation.

Expressing the frog

Primary School, Rotterdam
Kees Christiaanse, KCAP

Here the bricks have been laid in an alternative orientation expressing the frog, which would normally be hidden, to create a unique pattern and texture on the façade.

Inventive Use of Brick

55 Gee Street, London
Munkenbeck + Partners

The award-winning Gee Street project in Clerkenwell, London showcases both the eye-catching aesthetic and also innovative qualities of bricks.

The brick was chosen because of its resemblance to Mediterranean terracotta wall blocks, which in northern Italy are used to make perforated walls for feed drying barns.

Inventive Use of Brick

55 Gee Street, London
Munkenbeck + Partners

Bricks laid on their side to create a perforated façade aiding the buildings ventilation. This is a truly creative way to allow for natural ventilation.

Inventive Use of Brick

Openable panels on the inside wall allow the air to flow in. Alongside mechanical ventilation solutions it also means the building neither requires cooling or heating whilst the outside temperature is between 0 and 28 degrees.

Mortar Colour and Joint Profile

Mortar colours and joint profiles can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of brickwork.

Effect of mortar colour on brickwork appearance

Mortar accounts for 17% of the visible brickwork (dependant on bond pattern) and the colour chosen can change the look of a wall considerably.

Mortar Joint Profiles

The mortar joint profile has a significant impact on the aesthetics of a wall.

It also plays an important part in the overall weather resistance of brickwork so the choice of joint profile used should be based on technical performance requirements as well as appearance.

Creative Use of Mortar

Morjan – Poeten House, Germany
Nikolaus Bienefeld

Archaic simplicity.

Demonstrates how well brick architecture can fit into rural areas.


Unless you are designing a very simple and dull building you will always need specials to finish and bond your design.
Involve the manufacturer early to help you get the most out of specials and limit the need for purpose made specials that increase cost.

Options for Special Shapes

British Standard 4729:1990 contains a wide range of special shaped units arranged in groups by basic description. With 235 variations included, traditional details can be achieved, but modifications to basic dimensions, angles and facing requirements of specials are often required to create particular detailing.


Where standard special shapes cannot meet the requirements of the project design, purpose made specials can be manufactured. A wide range of shapes and angles can be manufactured from each of the different manufacturing processes. Each factory does have its limitations to what can be made but our Design Services team can advise on what is practical with each product.



We have seen how:

Brick has developed from being a traditional, plain building material into an innovative, modern and adaptable material providing solutions for the entire building envelope.

Clay brick is a contemporary, sustainable and versatile natural building material, which can be used almost anywhere and for all architectural styles.

A broad selection of colours, formats and surface finishes in combination with different bond patterns and mortar colours allows countless possible designs.

Clay bricks almost last forever and retain their quality and beauty.


Learning Outcomes

On completing this CPD you should have an understanding of the elements that can be used to create beautiful brick buildings:

  • Knowledge of the rich history and longevity of brick as a construction material.
  • A basic understanding of modern brick manufacturing processes and the characteristics of different products.
  • How different colours and textures are created and provide countless design options.

Learning Outcomes

On completing this CPD you should have an understanding of:

  • The different size formats available.
  • How choices of laying patterns, mortar colour and joint profile can influence the appearance of brickwork.
  • How special shaped bricks and contemporary methods of construction can be utilised to achieve brickwork design solutions.
  • Knowledge of a range of projects which showcase exciting, exceptional and innovative uses of brick.


There are many elements that architects can use to create beautiful brick buildings, the brick types, sizes, colours, textures, bond patterns and orientations, as well as mortar joints and profiles will all influence the over aesthetic, but it is the creativity of the designer that really defines a building.

Wienerberger Brick Awards

The Wienerberger Brick Award is an international award acknowledging outstanding brick architecture.

The competition promotes the aesthetic and functional assets that facing bricks, clay blocks, roof tiles and ceramic façade panels have to offer for contemporary architecture.

The use of Wienerberger products is not compulsory for participation!

Thank you!

Ask a Question about this CPD

    CPD Q&A

    You’ve reached the end of the CPD. To make sure you’ve taken on board the key learnings of this course, please fill out the quick multiple choice Q&A below. This will certify that you have completed the CPD and provide you with an email certificate, which, if the course is accredited, you can share with RIBA.


    Which of these is not a standard mortar joint profile


    Well done!
    You can move on to the
    next CPD question.


    You might want to reread our
    course content.



    British Standard 4729:1990 contains how many variations of special shaped bricks?


    Well done!
    You can move on to the
    next CPD question.


    You might want to reread our
    course content.