12/07/2016

A very special type of brick adorns the exterior of 180 East 88th Street. Here, we’ll discover not only what makes the brick so special, but also what makes the artisans who make it so special.

A truly international building

Though the building that houses the luxury Upper East Side condos of 180 East 88th Street is a Manhattan beauty through and through, it’s the culmination of an international collaboration. Take, for instance, the hand-sculpted plaster wall of the lobby, created by German artist Jan Hooss, or look outside for other European influences, such as the striking grey brickwork of the facade, created by Danish company Petersen Tegl.

A company of history and repute

Petersen Tegl has been in business since 1791—a time when Manhattan’s entire population was still only around 30,000 and its main industry was milling. In that era, Petersen Tegl was already perfecting the art of the coal-fired brick and getting some royal attention. Says Christian A. Petersen, owner of Petersen Tegl, “In the year 1791, we received a letter from Christian VII, King of Denmark and Norway, giving permission to my ancestor, the farmer Peter Andresen, to make bricks on his property, to make them the best way. For this, he had to pay ten dollars every year.”

Brick artisans

Though Petersen Tegl no longer has to pay the king for the privilege of crafting bricks, its methods have changed very little over the centuries. The bricks are still made by hand, and they’re still fired with coal, which creates their vibrant colors: from deep, rusty reds to chocolaty slabs that look almost good enough to eat. It just so happens that these days, Petersen Tegl, one of the few remaining brickworks in the world, is also in high demand globally: in Europe, Asia, and the States—and specifically in NYC, where it has made its elegant way to 180 East 88th Street.

Kolumba™

Kolumba™, one of Petersen Tegl’s finest creations, was developed in conjunction with the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. These sleek bricks, with standard dimensions of 528 x 108 x 37mm, are produced using wooden molds and shifting firing temperatures that result in distinctive nuances of texture and color: creams, slate grays, and reds. Kolumba™ bricks are featured prominently in a number of high-end architectural designs, from the Leopold Hoesch Museum in Germany to the Turnmill building in central London.

These bricks might be all over the world now, but they only grace buildings of quality and distinction. And because of their production methods, each brick in each building is utterly unique. So the next time you look up at the facade of 180 East 88th Street, remember where those bricks came from, the way they’ve been crafted, and their royal heritage.

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