The Bartlett School of Architecture, London

The Bartlett School of Architecture (formerly Wates House), London


JANINHOFF MSZ-LF290/52-GR-14/601






22 Gordon Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 0QB


Challenges can present themselves in such a way that usual working methods are incompatible with a project’s goals – and so it proved when architect Hawkins\Brown tackled a major refurbishment. Entrusted with breathing new life into The Bartlett School of Architecture, the firm had certain building restrictions placed upon it by the local authority. Consequently, it had a Herculean task on its hands to source the right type of brick – but Modular Clay Products rose to the challenge.

“Creating a unique brick to not only match the client’s requirements, but also enable the local authority to grant planning consent was a difficult challenge. It was one that we relished and succeeded at.”

Tim West, Managing Director, Modular Clay Products

Part of University College London (UCL), 22 Gordon Street (formerly Wates House) has been home to The Bartlett School of Architecture since 1975. It was, however, an increasingly uninspiring building in poor condition and in need of additional space, all of which was at odds with the creativity thriving within its walls. But Hawkins\Brown’s brief was not a straightforward one. The building was to be stripped back to its original concrete frame, which had loading constraints; structural engineers decreed that a brick any wider than 70mm could not be used. And the standard UK brick is 102mm.



The challenge was to source a specific brick of a certain size and length that would meet the loading constraints of the frame and could be accommodated within the 6000m centre-to-centre of the retained primary columns. The site also straddles two sub-sections of the Bloomsbury conservation area and is adjacent to a third, so the brick colour had to complement the surrounding buildings – many of which are listed. Finally, the entire project had to be completed in just 28 months, so a tight turnaround was on the cards.


Initially a brick slip system was offered as a solution, but the local authority rejected this. So Modular Clay Products worked closely with Hawkins\Brown and UCL to source a very special brick. This was found at the Janinhoff Klinkermanufaktur factory in Münster, Germany, and met all the criteria: it was thin enough to be supported by the existing structure, wide enough to be traditionally laid and the right length for the structural grid, which meant minimal wastage. In producing more than 140,000 waterstruck bricks, Janinhoff purchased new tables to ensure that they were exactly 70mm wide. “It was a successful solution that the contractor, planners, design team and client are very pleased with. So pleased, that we engraved a number of the bricks to present as gifts to all involved,” says Kevin Jones, UCL’s Faculty Facilities Manager.


Because of Modular Clay Products’ commitment to finding the right solution, we are now a trusted collaborator for Hawkins\Brown. The firm’s Associate Tom Noonan says: “We look forward to seeing how the bricks and the building bed into their context over time, and will continue to collaborate with Modular Clay Products and Janinhoff to test the possibilities of brick in years to come.”


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