A Wall Made of Bricks
Category: under 5,000 square feet
Equal parts time machine and work of art, A Wall Made of Bricks in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood is composed of building materials found at the site dating from 16,000 years ago to today. The team reused 11,000 salvaged bricks from the demolition of an existing warehouse to create this 200-foot-long street wall in collaboration with a group of master masons.
The wall is an essential element of the more extensive botanical garden and venue space the team designed. It serves as a perimeter retaining wall that shields the garden from two highly trafficked streets and retains nine feet of soil on the other side. Local artists, vandals, and renegades informed the design as the team sought to create not just a blank canvas for street artists but a highly specific architectural work.
"This project is a rich exploration of re-use, determination, and narrative—resulting in a powerful tapestry that celebrates patina, layered history, and continuity" - Jury comment
Material re-use and craftsmanship are the crucial components of the project, starting with the earliest building materials, stones tumbled and smoothed by a retreating glacier, being brought to the site during the last ice age. Masonry from the site’s warehouses and cold storage facilities was gathered, scraped by hand on-site, and carefully cataloged. A poured concrete wall served as a blank canvas for an original composition that showcases the site’s material history in an impressionistic manner.
The team conducted thorough research on the provenance and application of the bricks, from the molded makers’ names to the layers of pastel graffiti that marked the faces of more recent street-facing assemblies. The bricks were arranged into seven types of bond patterns and placed on the concrete wall as a masonry veneer, creating a façade that melds history and architecture.
Even after construction, the wall continues to evolve. Rainwater washes through the cracks in former foundation stones, stripping them of iron oxide. Calcium from mortar leached through the joints creates a new growth of puffy white efflorescence, while portions of the wall that face north are just deep enough to allow traces of moss growth. The team left its own mark, too, casting the firm's name in concrete bricks found throughout the composition.