Improvised roadblocks composed of three bricks stacked into an arch were ubiquitous during Hong Kong’s 2019 anti-government protests and have now won an award in the People’s Choice category at the Beazley Design of the Year 2020 Awards.

The simple design prevents the advance of vehicles as the brick on top of the structure falls to buttress the remaining two bricks when hit by a wheel.

bricks protest march five demands 1 July 2020 causeway bay
Photo: Joshua Kwan/United Social Press.

“I think one of the reasons that the brick arches struck such a chord with the public was that their design simplicity starkly contrasted with the complexity of the surrounding political moment,” co-curator of Designs of the Year 2020 Maria McLintock told Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine.

Using brick roadblocks to block the advance of water cannon and other police vehicles became a popular strategy among protesters in 2019, when peaceful demonstrations against an extradition bill evolved into often violent clashes between protesters and police across the city.

The “mini-stonehenges” common during the civil unrest were built from bricks pried from the city’s sidewalks. The person who first came up with the design remains unknown.

“The designer is anonymous, it is made of vernacular materials and anyone can replicate it,” McLintock told Dezeen. “There is something quite fitting here in the notion that a project designed for the people was voted for by the people.”

The awards, organised by London’s Design Museum of which McLintock is curator, recognise the most innovative designs in technology, architecture, fashion, digital, products and transport from across the world.

"November 12" protest roadblock
Photo: via C.C.2.0.

The overall winner for the Design of the Year 2020 Awards was the “Teeter-Totter Wall” see-saw designed by architect Rael San Fratello which allowed children to interact and play with each other across a section of former US President Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall.

Other winners include the “Impossible burger” design made of imitation meat.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.