ERA Architects

Polychrome brickwork

Following up with more masonry-related topics in honour of an upcoming visit by our friend Gerard Lynch, today’s post is on a distinctive masonry tradition used internationally: polychrome brickwork, the use of usually two, but sometimes three, colours of brick, generally red with buff accents (but the opposite in the image above).

Except for a few very early examples such as the Snyder House in North York (c. 1828), polychrome was most popular in Ontario between 1850 and 1880. This tradition is generally associated with the Gothic Revival and Italianate styles and is used in buildings of various kinds, from houses to commercial buildings, and churches to fire stations.

The colour contrasts are used in conjunction with decorative details such as corner quoins, decorative arched windows, and details on door-heads (voussoirs, keystones, and labels), as well as horizontal banding and spandrel patterns. Below, see some details of a site for which ERA is currently offering conservation consulting:

Polychrome brickwork can be found in England prior to the industrial age, but the surge in international popularity is generally attributed to the mid-nineteenth century English architect William Butterfield. His design for London’s All Saints’ Church (c 1852) was considered a pivotal project, incorporating an elaborate use of colour both inside and out.

Not only was the exuberant brickwork an immediate response to the lifting of the stifling Brick Tax but it also exemplified the technological advancements of the industrial age.

If you are interested in learning more about heritage brickwork, Gerard Lynch is leading heritage masonry workshops at Evergreen Brickworks, from October 23 to 31.