Stories and artistry woven in bricks

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For centuries masonry has been one of the most prominent features in Danish building practices and bricks have long been valued as a highly robust material that patinates beautifully over time. Therefore, we naturally wanted this historic building tradition to be part of the story of the future Crafts College in Herning. More than 1 million reclaimed bricks, collected from several different buildings in Denmark, will form parts of the walls as well as exterior and interior flooring. With visible traces of wear, mortar residue, and paint, the bricks add narrative layers to the Craft College and creates a visually playful expression with nuances of yellow, rose, lilac, and blue intertwined in the red surfaces.

The decision to use reclaimed bricks is not only founded in a wish to preserve a historic trade. By repurposing bricks from demolished buildings, we can reduce the need for new raw materials, minimise waste, and cut down the energy used in producing new materials. An early LCA calculation indicates that the use of reclaimed bricks will reduce the overall environmental impact of the Craft College by 15 percent compared to a similar construction of newly manufactured bricks.

“Masonry traces back more than a thousand years in Denmark and bricks thereby holds a significant historic and cultural value in our building tradition which we wanted reflected in the crafts college. However, the production of new bricks is very energy-consuming, so by choosing reclaimed bricks, we are working consciously to reduce the overall environmental impact of the building. At the same time, the weathered quality, and unique details they add form a visible educational tool, encouraging the students to creatively consider materials and resourcefulness in future solutions,” says Marta Vila, Senior Architect and Project Manager.

Each wall has a unique slope to fit the organic curve of the timber roof. The middle partitions of the walls are constructed in a traditional cross bond which together with the many colour shades of the reclaimed bricks form an intricate, textured pattern. At the plinth and the top, it changes to stacked bond, creating a subtle ornamentation towards the ground and the roof, showcasing the skills of the masons working with this complex structure. Reclaimed hard-burned German bricks are used in the plinth and for interior and exterior flooring as they are less porous and can therefore better withstand direct contact with the terrain.  

With flexibility and reuse in mind
The Crafts College aims to become a living textbook of functional and responsible craftmanship. Materials and solutions are carefully considered to illustrate how the interaction between different crafts and professions can form functional and beautiful designs that respond to current and future challenges. The reclaimed bricks are held together by hydraulic lime mortar, which is one of the oldest known types of masonry mortar, dating as far back as ancient Greece. The softness and elasticity of the lime mortar allows for the structure to be taken apart and reused at the end of the building’s lifetime.

“We have analysed the depth and colour of different types of mortar in large scale mock-ups on site before choosing a natural light grey lime mortar. The soft texture of the lime mortar seamlessly blends with the weathered aesthetic of the recycled bricks and when used right, it is a very durable material. Lime is both highly flexible and breathable which means it reduces the risk of moisture being trapped within the wall and allows a natural movement of the building without fracturing,” says Marta Vila.

The Crafts College is the second out of three planned colleges in Denmark that aims to strengthen the respect and positive image of the craft profession, attracting more young people to the field. The college it is expected to open in 2025. Founded by the BRF Foundation, the colleges are built to help strengthen the respect and positive image of the craft professions and attract more young people to the field. 

The recycled bricks are supplied by manufacturer Gamle Mursten, "Old Bricks".

Images: Dorte Mandrup A/S

Read more about the Craft College here.