Technical Study: Brick Bonds and Patterns

Brick is one of the most common materials used in architecture. It’s inexpensive, durable and versatile. The brick detail can be an important feature to pay attention to when designing a building, due to the wide range of styles available. Here we will explore the different types of brick detailing and show you a multitude of examples of architectural projects that have been creative with their brick detailing.​

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Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Bricks are a modular building material and come in a huge range of colours, finishes, textures, sizes and types.

Brick is still a popular building material for modern construction to its longevity and connection to the existing building fabric. The following is an introductory guide to detailing bricks, looking at bonds, patterns, finishes and setting out.

Brick Bonds

Designers and architects are experimenting once again with this material. They are pushing the boundaries with modern brick patterns and techniques, to provide cost effective and attractive exteriors to buildings. The following are just a few of the most common brick bonds.

Stretcher Bond

Stretcher brick bond
Wall Section- Stretcher
dRMM’s Trafalgar Place is a great example of the ingenious use of brickwork. They created a pallet of brickwork from standard facing bricks to tie the building into its surrounding context.

Header Stretcher Bond

Wall Section- Header
Header Stretcher Brick Bond
Caruso St. John uses a bold form for and a mixture of colours and bonds to create a separation between the street level in a dark header stretched bond and the top of the building, in a more traditional buff Flemish bond.

Flemish Bond

Header Stretcher Brick Bond
Wall Section- flemish stretcher
Flemish brick bond is a very common brick bond, especially within historic residential buildings in London. It is sometimes used in modern buildings to connect it with these historic surroundings.

English Bond

Wall Section- Header
English Garden Wall
Neues Museum – David Chipperfield Architects. This brick bond is typically seen within historic buildings and is quite similar to the Flemish although less common.


Herringbone house large
Herringbone house by Atelier Chanchan. The Herringbone house is named after the bold brick bond it uses. As it is not possible to set out windows to this strange bond, the architects used a header detail around windows, doors and tops of walls.
a pattern can be highlighted but pulling it further out or into the façade. This adds texture and shadows to a flat wall plane

Brick Patterns

Once you have chosen your brick bond, you can play around with the patterns and depth. Below are some examples of how to do this, including protruding hit and miss brickwork, corbelling and protruding bricks. As well as all the examples shown, twisting brickwork, brick slips or using special shaped bricks can also add depth to a façade.

Protruding Brickwork

Protruding brickwork is a low cost way of adding depth to a façade. With the same or even different colored bricks, a pattern can be highlighted by pulling it either further out or into the façade. This adds further texture and shadows to a flat façade.


Corbelling section
The Corbelled Brick Extension — YARD Architects 2
Maccreanor Lavington 2
The Corbelled Brick Extension – YARD Architects (above left)

Corbelling is traditionally seen in brick parapets to define the top of a wall and add further depth. Traditional structural corbelling can still be achieved with the simple rules that

  1. That the total overhang cannot exceed 1/3 of the wall depth (total wall depth ÷ 3, T/3).
  2. Each corbel much not exceed 25.4cm (1 inch).

However, more complicated corbelling can be achieved using precast brick panels, brick slips and other structural solutions. For example, Maccreanor Lavington (above middle and right) uses precast panels with the structural corbelled brickwork integrated into the concrete panel so each piece can be craned into place.

Hit and Miss Brickwork

Hit and Miss Brickwork
Hit and miss brickwork has traditionally been used in garden walls to allow light and air to permeate. More modern examples can be seen in front of glazing to create a screen effect. It is key to speak to the manufacture when using this type of brickwork as it is more exposed to the elements and therefore not all bricks will be suitable. High water resistant solid brickwork is always recommended as bricks with frogs and holes will allow too much water ingress.

Waterloo Lane Mews by Grafton Architects (pictured).

Other Examples

Special bricks, faceted glazed bricks

Royal Albert Wharf Phase 1 by Maccreanor Lavington

Twisting brickwork
Cambridge college halls by Walters & Cohen
Creating curves with standard brickwork
Iberia Center for Contemporary Art Approach Architecture Studio
The mortar joint in brickwork is key, not just structurally, but the profile changes how the brickwork creates shadow and depth…

Brick Mortar Joints

The mortar joint in brickwork is a key part of a brickwork wall, helping to join the brickwork together structurally and keeping the rain and elements out of the interior. There are many ways of specifying the mortar joint for your brickwork. The colour, for example, can make a huge difference on the appearance of the wall. The joint profile also changes how the brickwork creates a shadow and depth.

Below are some of the most common types of mortar joint:

Bucket handle joint

This type of joint is the most commonly used in which the face of the joint is compressed and provides the most durable profile.

Flush joint

This is the simplest but potentially least durable. As this joint has not been compressed by a finishing tool it should not be used in areas of severe exposure. However, a skilled bricklayer will be able to achieve this finish with a compressed joint.

Weather struck joint

This joint is recessed at the top slightly sloping to allow for the dispersion of rainwater. It has excellent strength and water resistance. ‘Perpends’ or the vertical joint should also have this profile.

Recessed joint

The maximum depth of the recess should not exceed 4mm and should be ironed to compress the joint’s surface. When using this joint profile consideration should be given to the exposure of the wall and brick type.

TDO House – bucket handle joint
Turnmill, Piercy and Company – weatherstruck joint


Kew House, McLaren.Excell – flush joint
Rosyln Road, Magri Williams Architects – recessed joint

Brick Finishes

There are a huge range of brick finishes including, glazed, waterstruck, handmade, rusticated, dragfaced, rolled, sandfaced and smooth. Whilst they may seem purely aesthetic, different finishes can be great for different environments. For example, glazed bricks are great at reflecting light and are commonly used in light wells or for special detailing around entrances. Rusticated and sandfaced bricks are a great way of adding texture to mass produced bricks, making them seem more like handmade ones and engineered smooth bricks are recommended in lower areas of walls where structural brickwork is required as they are stronger, more resistant to moisture and loading.

Below, transition between waterstruck and glazed bricks. Church (Årsta Kirke) by  Johan Celsing Arkitektkontor


Brick detailing is an important part of the design process. There are many types of bricks, joints and styles that can give a building a unique character. Whether you are looking for inspiration to add some flair to your new build scheme or considering a unique renovation project, some of the above ideas will help get you started. If you want more inspiration on bricks, brick styles and applications and how they work with different architectural designs, be sure to follow us on Pinterest where we have hundreds of modern brick ideas!

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Written by Aida Rodriguez-Vega, architect and researcher. At the Detail Library, Aida keeps busy by carrying out technical research and drawing new details for the ever-growing library.

For More Inspiration…

For More Inspiration…

Image Credits

For more stunning photos of the projects featured in this article please visit the architects websites by following the links below.

Trafalgar Place by dRMM

Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St John

Neues Museum by David Chipperfield Architects

Herringbone House by Atelier Chanchan

Silchester Housing by Haworth Tompkins

Horsted Park by Proctor and Matthews Architects

House in Aggstall by Hild und K Architekten

The Corbelled Brick Extension by YARD Architects

Bloomsbury Student Halls by Maccreanor Lavington

Waterloo Lane Mews by Grafton Architects

Royal Albert Wharf by Maccreanor Lavington

Iberia Centre for Contemporary Art by Approach Architecture Studio

Cambridge College Halls by Walters and Cohen

TDO House by TDO

Kew House by Mclaren Excell

Turnmill by Piercy and Company

Rosyln Road by Magri Williams Architects

Church (Arsta Kirke) by Johan Celsing Arkitektkontor