A World Map Made of Bricks

I have used many different materials to create world maps: from rusty steel to toilet paper and from stained glass to coffee beans. But a typical Dutch material was missing until now: brick. Time to fill that gap with a masonry relief.

Interpretation by AI of a world map as masonry relief
AI interpretation


The use of brick is not a recent phenomenon. The Mesopotamians used it five thousand years ago, as did the Romans a few millennia later.

In the Netherlands, brick has been used as a building material since the thirteenth century. It’s not surprising that we have such a tradition of brick in this country. Apart from the marl in Southern Limburg, we don’t find natural stone here, while the major rivers do bring in huge amounts of clay.


In the twentieth century, new materials like glass and concrete started playing a significant role. But brick never really disappeared. In recent years, you could even speak of a revival. Especially decorative brickwork is back: walk into any new residential area, and you’ll see a catalog of brick types, patterns, and reliefs.

Four examples of recently made decorative masonry and brick reliefs in housing projects in Rotterdam
Any new residential area…


These reliefs are usually abstract patterns. I haven’t seen a world map relief anywhere, so I virtually built one myself. I also tried using AI to create something, but that didn’t work out. Such bots have no understanding of the Dutch type of bricks. So this map was created using traditional, artisanal 3D modeling and Photoshop techniques.

Sunlit brick wall with a world map relief
Virtually masonry

Stretcher bond

I used Waal format bricks, by far the most common size in the Netherlands. The wall is laid in stretcher bond, and the number of layers is not entirely arbitrary. Each layer represents five degrees of latitude; each stretcher (the long side of a brick) represents twenty degrees of longitude.

This results in a fairly coarse grid and thus a rather schematic approach to the world map. But hey, this map isn’t made for planning your vacation; it’s purpose is purely aesthetic.

Brick wall with a world map in relief and with moss, lichen and chalk
Digital craftmanship…

Headers and stretchers

There are also a few “special features” . The equator is a row of headers, the polar regions are formed by rows of stretchers. And, more subtly, at the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, there’s a layer of headers.

Detail of a masonry relief with a world map, on which a part of Africa and adjacent oceans is visible
Lichen, moss and limescale

The ravages of time

I’ve also added some signs of the passage of time to the colorful palette of bricks. Limescale on the landmasses, moss and lichen on the oceans. This way, the continents stand out a bit better than if I didn’t make that distinction. And perhaps it’s logical: the oceans are somewhat more shaded, so more moss will grow there. Or perhaps someone occasionally removes the moss on the continents, who knows.

Living room with wallpaper showing a brick wall with a world map relief
Brick world map wallpaper

Layer height

Based on a layer height of 62.5 centimeters, the entire wall is 4.5 meters wide and 2.25 meters high. The average living room is only slightly higher, so the scale fits more or less as wallpaper. But on a smaller scale and on different surfaces, the relief also comes into its own. Feel free to browse my webshop

Living room with framed print of a world map as a brick relief on the wall above the couch
Interior with matching colors…

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