'Brick of Chicago' virtual tours: See the city's brick as art

You may already be a big admirer of Chicago’s architecture, but how closely have you looked at its bricks?

The downtown skyscrapers get all the attention, but there is growing interest in a local architectural phenomenon that is hiding right in front of us.


A local brick enthusiast says we are living in perhaps the best city for brick in the world and it often goes unnoticed. Well, that is now changing all because of an Instagram called "Brick of Chicago."

"I started noticing all these different textures, all these different colors," said Will Quam.

Quam started "Brick of Chicago" five years ago, showing detailed images of the stunning brickwork he first noticed in his own North Side neighborhood.

"It started really small. It started with just sort of my friends. None of them really knew if I was serious about it or not and it grew from there," Quam said.

Fifteen-thousand followers later, Brick of Chicago is now Quam's full-time job. He has launched a full-scale website. On sale is six different virtual tours, all focused on the city's brick as art.

"I have a virtual tour that is a whole history of brick architecture in Chicago. We're jumping from Pullman to Lincoln Park, to Sauganash," Quam said. "We can go all over the city."

It is an exploration in color, texture and skill that went into creating stunning visuals that are all around us -- a true art-form, with its own vocabulary.

"The ways a brick is oriented, you call it a different name: a stretcher, header, rowlock, soldier, sailor, shiner," Quam said.
The long side of a brick is a stretcher; the short side is a header. Turned tall-ways, it's a rowlock. The tall thin side? A soldier. The broad side? A sailor.

"People don't realize that that's hiding right in front of their eyes," Quam said. "I guarantee you, if you start looking a little closer at your own block or your own neighborhood, you're going to see some incredible architecture."

Now that the weather is about to warm up, in-person brick tours are about to launch.

Quam says the best way to get started on your own Chicago brick appreciation journey is easy: walk to your nearest CPS school and look at all the intentional details in the masonry. You are almost guaranteed to notice something beautiful that you have not seen before.