Inpractice – Two: Brickwork algorithm

Last year saw the completion of The International Institute for Product & Service Innovation (IIPSI), an important inclusion to the final phases of Warwick University’s Academic Square. The building provides high quality work spaces and showcase areas for the research, creation and displaying of innovative technologies and processes.

The building was taken to stage D by Cullinan Studio, then passed onto Associated Architects, who were appointed, post tender, to finish the project and take on the detailed design of a brick tower, which would sit at the end of the facility. It’s the tower that we want to talk about today.


From the start the tower was set to be an interesting challenge. The decision was made to include a randomized brick pattern, which threatened to turn the construction period into something incredibly slow and costly. The irony of the whole affair was that creating a chaotic, random design was actually far more time consuming and intricate then a standard constructed pattern. Chaos, actually takes some thought it seems.

The idea of the randomized brick pattern was created to give the tower a cascading pixel effect, creating an interesting marriage between the innovative technologies inside the building, and the industrial heritage evoked by the use of Staffordshire blue brick.

Andy Bonner, of AA, came up with the idea to use an algorithm to create the randomised pattern. This was a simple, yet effective way around having to spend excessive amounts of time trying to map out each individual brick.

If you look at the pictures below you’ll see the algorithm being worked out in 3D visualisations. Obviously something like this takes a few punts to get right. Each attempt required a different formula. We chose plan F for the actual project.

a b c d e f g

(images from left to right: a – g)

The math. The base of the tower is entirely Flemish bond, for the first 2.5m above ground level, then after every ten courses of brick work two jutted bricks were added, this process was repeated as the tower climbed, so that by the time the head of the structure was reached the pixelated effect was dominant. The University climbing club was consulted on the formation of the pattern, offering a light hearted approach to construction methods.

The tower has become a well-known feature of the university and the setting sun casts interesting shadows due to the protruding headers. At night LED lighting is used to up light the tower making it a beacon at the end of library road. The decision to up light was to draw people’s attention immediately to the bricks, using them as the primary point for visual exploration of the structure.

IMG_1020 IMG_1021 IMG_1025

See the lights in full flow on Youtube

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