What Is Polychrome Brickwork?

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05 May 2017
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Polychrome brickwork sounds very sophisticated, but it essentially just means using bricks of different colours when building.

As a style, it was very popular in the Victorian period but was generally seen as ‘too fussy’ by the Modern Movement. It was often used in designs for vernacular cottages, (see illustration from Debden Road, Saffron Walden). In its simplest form it can be a simple string course in a contrasting colour, but more ambitious schemes colour every other brick. Having become a popular method more recently, polychrome contains the advantage to help promote a particular trend in time, such as classical orange and red brickwork representing Henry Austin’s era.

In terms of origination, the noted Victorian architect, William Butterfield, was fond of polychrome brickwork and was noted in his era for his use of it. To this day he remains an icon for the method, although an early example of polychrome decoration was found in the Parthenon atop the Acropolis of Athens. Famous for All Saints church in Margaret Street, central London, which became a pivotal event with its use of elaborate colour, Butterfield also worked on the service wing at Audley End, and at Hadstock Church, where he designed the Chancel, using a combination of flint and stone to achieve a polychromatic effect.
Now becoming a popular method of choice to produce art deco style effects, the 20th century saw notable periods of polychromy in architecture, from the expressions of Art Nouveau throughout Europe to the international flourishing of Art Deco or Art Moderne, to the development of postmodernism in the latter decades of the century. Polychrome is still a choice of brickwork we get requested here at Hibbs & Walsh, enabling clients to incorporate pattern and colour to the outside of a building as well as the inside, it offers vibrant and more meticulous design options than other methods. Due to its ease of application, it also works well for reclaimed bricks and can include a variety of materials, making it popular for those who want to add more depth and texture to their build. Often used to replicate the effect of quoining and also decorate around windows, criss-cross and step patterns, and in some cases even writing using bricks means polychrome offers a variety of potential.
If polychrome is on your wishlist, Hibbs & Walsh are the ideal team to help. Contact us today on 01799 523660 to let us help with your next project.

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