A Danish Brick at Home in Brooklyn

June 23, 2016
Credit: Evan Joseph

“Go to Denmark” was contractor Steve Sann’s response when BBB approached Triton Construction about using Petersen Brick at The Hendrik, a new contemporary residential condominium in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Designed with craftsmanship as the guiding principle, The Hendrik draws upon the neighborhood’s industrial past as home to the labor force that built much of New York City.

BBB Partner Carlos Cardoso first encountered Petersen Brick when researching masonry options that would feel contemporary, yet complement the surrounding buildings. Carlos was particularly struck by the vividness and deep tonality of the Petersen brick’s color range due to its traditional coal-firing process; each brick is unique. These qualities were equally compelling to client Jeffrey Gershon of Hopestreet, who agreed that the brick’s aesthetic beauty would elevate The Hendrik’s sophisticated, minimalist design. The selection of Petersen’s handmade D Series Brick for the façade would turn out to be a fitting choice, evocative of the neighborhood’s legacy of skill, workmanship, and artistry.

While superior craftsmanship was the goal for the building, a collaborative mindset was the expectation for the project team. BBB and Hopestreet engaged Steve Sann and Lance Franklin of Triton Construction early in the design process to ensure that the brick, not commonly used in the US, would be coursed and installed properly to achieve the intended aesthetic quality. Steve worked with the team on several mock-ups and mortar techniques, and also recommended that Carlos and Jeff visit the Petersen factory first-hand. The process of finalizing the color selection, type of brick, and understanding the installation methodology on-site would be invaluable in ensuring seamless and efficient implementation on the Brooklyn project.

And so it was that Carlos and Jeff found themselves on a trip to Petersen brickworks in Broager, Denmark, where the Petersen family has been fabricating coal-fired bricks for over 220 years. During their visit, they spent numerous hours reviewing the multitude of colors and patterns of brick under varying light conditions, visited local Petersen projects to closely observe the mortar technique, and discussed how to integrate the brick corners elegantly on The Hendrik’s two main facades.

Upon their return, after narrowing in on two palettes of brick, they were able to review full-size mock-ups of their selection with Steve’s team. Ultimately, they decided on a darker brick with tones of gray, blue, and green that change subtly from day to night, enhancing the building’s contemporary aesthetic.

“The brick became more than just brick,” reflects Carlos. “We were adamant about creating a well-built, well-crafted building.” Read more about The Hendrik in The New York Times article “A Townhouse Alternative in Boerum Hill.”

Below are snapshots of Carlos and Jeff’s trip to the Petersen brickworks in Broager, Denmark:

Beyer Blinder Belle

Different types of brick on view outside the Petersen brickworks.

Carlos Cardoso
Carlos Cardoso

Sample walls with all of Petersen’s brick products are located at several places on the factory site.

Carlos Cardoso

In a large pug mill, clay is processed and water and steam is added. Then it is taken to the machines which mold the bricks.

Carlos Cardoso

Stacks of bricks coming out of the kiln. It takes three days for bricks to pass through the kiln. Petersen fires its bricks with coal which gives the famous, varying play of colors.

Carlos Cardoso

Petersen’s ship, Emma, which has moored at the brickworks since 1970. Previously, bricks were shipped directly from the factory’s own pier and out into the world.

Carlos Cardoso

Carlos Cardoso (right) with Petersen brickworks owner Christian A. Petersen among the bonsai trees which he finds and cultivates himself.