“We have three principles that we abide by,” says Christian A. Petersen, the seventh generation member of the Danish family behind Petersen Brick. “The customer is king; Der Kunde ist König and Le client est roi.” Multiple translations, but one ethos: to tailor brick production to any project, no matter how ambitious, or where it might be. Founded in 1791, Petersen Brick has based itself in a site of rich clay deposits beside the navigable Baltic Sea, which has allowed its bricks to find markets across Northern Europe. Not only are the bricks durable in exposed northerly locations, but also they are versatile in terms of any design aesthetic desired. The product range—notably including the long, thin Kolumba brick, based on a Roman design—is now found in 43 countries and 12 U.S. states. How does Petersen manage it all at the age of 76? “Optimism, red wine, and the sanctuary of my fishing trawler,” he says with a laugh.
In New York, brick is increasingly being chosen for exciting new buildings. A luxury condominium project at 180 East 88th Street, inspired by the boom in high-rise masonry construction during the 1920s and 1930s, will require 600,000 Petersen bricks. High-profile projects using the bricks are also underway at 150 Wooster Street in SoHo, and 145 President in the heart of “Brownstone Brooklyn.” Nearby in Brooklyn is 211 Schermerhorn, a modern take on New York’s classic brick apartment buildings.