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What's in a Brick?

The exterior of the museum’s expanded façade with the new bricks alongside the original bricks and cupola on the west side of the new Hood. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

The exterior of the museum’s expanded façade with the new bricks alongside the original bricks and cupola on the west side of the new Hood. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

Careful selection of materials is crucial to getting the museum’s new façade exactly right. Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien have gone to great lengths to find the perfect combination of bricks and mortar that will speak to the Hood’s immediate neighbors, traditional red-brick Wilson Hall and brick-and-glass modernist Hopkins Center. Williams and Tsien’s vision for a white brick façade will also echo the iconic edifices of nearby Dartmouth Row, sparking a new conversation among the structures along the Green.

The architects vetted five different samples of gray and white bricks shipped from as far away as Europe and as close by as Maine. Then, in the parking lot behind the museum, a contractor constructed mock-up walls from each of the five bricks. Each sample wall included a corner, so the architects could assess how the bricks would relate to each other on the prominent corner above the Hood’s new front entrance.Williams and Tsien also compared the shape, size, color, and glaze of each variety of brick.

The hand-formed Petersen bricks from Denmark immediately fit the architects’ vision for a “quiet façade” that feels familiar and at home on the Dartmouth campus. Williams and Tsien also fine-tuned the color of the mortar, the alignment of the bricks, and the precise combination of white and light gray bricks they will use to animate the surface of the new north façade.When masonry work got underway, all were delighted with the result! 

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