These Wavy Brick Walls Found Across England Use Fewer Bricks Than Straight Walls

Crinkle Crankle Wall

Photo: Stock Photos from Mikhail Leypounsky/Shutterstock

Sometimes a straight line isn't best. Take a brick wall, for instance. Did you know that wavy walls are actually a more effective, and cheaper, way to build a strong barrier? Known as crinkle crankle walls, or serpentine walls, this type of construction is quite popular in England. Typically used as garden walls, their curved appearance is about more than just aesthetics.

Looks can be deceiving, and though it may appear that building these serpentine walls is a waste of bricks, that couldn't be further from the truth. Crinkle crankle walls actually use fewer bricks than traditional straight walls. This is because their curved form provides enough stability so that just one layer of bricks can be used. If a straight wall used the same number of bricks, it would quickly fall over without buttressing. If you're looking for a someone to give a mathematical explanation about how they work, John D. Cook does an excellent job in this blog post.

These walls have a long history dating back to the 18th century, when they were built so that the sun would hit one side. This would allow them to be used to grow fruit. They're particularly popular in Suffolk, which has twice as many examples as the rest of the UK. Serpentine walls can also be found in the United States. The most famous example is at the University of Virginia, where Thomas Jefferson incorporated them into the architecture.

So the next time you see an ordinary brick wall, think about how many bricks—and money—could be saved by just adding a little curve.

Crinkle crankle walls became popular in the 18th century in the United Kingdom.

Crinkle Crankle Wall

Photo: Stock Photos from Sarnia/Shutterstock

Their wavy pattern gives them stability with just a single layer of bricks.

Serpentine Wall

Photo: Stock Photos from AC Manley/Shutterstock

Thomas Jefferson incorporated serpentine walls into his design at the University of Virginia.

Serpentine Wall at the University of Virginia

Photo: Stock Photos from Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

h/t: [Twisted Sifter]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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