Project 250 – 6

What the brick really wants?

Image from Indian-Institute-Management-Louis-Kahn-162.jpg

“Even a brick wants to be something.
A brick wants to be something.
It aspires. 
Even a common, ordinary brick… wants to be something more than it is.
It wants to be something better than it is.”

― Louis Kahn

NCARB tests are finally done. California fires and global pandemic have interrupted scheduling CSE to finish the final licensure test for the state. Meanwhile, I am trying to take a well deserved break. The glory of a break is lost on me usually, I am inherently incapable of pausing. When I don’t see my next three goals, I don’t know what I am living for anymore. It sure is fun, to sleep in over the weekend without trying to fit in mindful study sessions before the world wakes up. It sure is great to watch a Bollywood movie mindlessly without guilt, but it’s not my comfort zone. I need my next to thrive. But, the logical next is no longer a test I could prove my mettle on — it’s a series of independent decisions by those in power based on colorism, sexism, racism and my general aesthetic of an immigrant…I tried focusing on relaxing with a movie and wine night, attempting to silence the chaos of dependent dreams. Two states, set in IIM Ahmedabad (designed by Louis Kahn) raked a different set of thoughts..

It was my dream to have a civil wedding at the historic courthouse. It was my dream to limit our wedding to us with a backdrop of architecture. But, being Indian, the wedding became everything about everyone except both of us. So are Indian marriages. It’s about families coming together, not two individuals. When that dream of courthouse wedding sailed, the next one was to renew our vows at Salk Institute. I wanted to wear the red and gold I wore as a bride, and have a photoshoot at sunset with Salk as our backdrop. Again, the dream was us with a backdrop of architecture, and for reasons unknown, that dream stays on the bottom of the list. Watching the composition of bricks, hierarchy of arches and the monumentalist aesthetic served as a reminder to revisit Project 250 though..

Continuing “Project 250”, a personal project based on Michael Sorkin’s Two Hundred Fifty Things an Architect Should Know.

47. What the brick really wants.

You say to brick, “What do you want, brick?” Brick says to you, “I like an arch.” if you say to brick, “arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that, brick?” Brick says: “I like an arch.”

— Louis Kahn

Louis Kahn thinks it wants to be arch, but still in true architect fashion, presents the value engineered option of using a concrete lintel above openings. Meanwhile, IIM’s delaminating bricks want to ask the architect what was he thinking, creating unsustainable means and methods leading to deterioration of materials.

What does the brick really wants?

It probably wants to be imperfect out of the kiln, lay in the field fired, waiting to melt in the rain, ready to integrate with the earth it was made of, “cradle to cradle”.

It probably wants to be fired in the kiln sturdy enough, framing the walls of a shelter, holding a sheet of roofing, screaming “design for dignity”, living a purpose driven life.

It probably wants to be the perfect vanity brick, not ready to shoulder the load, but to be a lean on veneer soaking its skin in rain water, beaming with pride when an architectural photographer captures the glistening rain drops on facade to celebrate the material.

It may not want anything at all. It might be devoid of dreams and drama. It might be dead and emotionless. We will never know what the brick really wants, because we are engrossed in responding to what the brick really wants, not knowing what it wants. Powerful exerting their expressions over the powerless under the pretense of creative freedom. What a brick wants is what the architect wants as design vision. It will become a silent spectator to the stories an architect wants to weave, and the stories it’s occupant eventually writes.

Form follows function, and materials follow form…

The saga of a brick reminds of the poem “Pushpa Ki Abhilasha” by Makhanlal Chaturvedi. It’s a poem about what a flower wishes… similar to what a brick wants. The flower rejects the idea of being a part of a garland to enhance the charms of a beautiful woman, or be offered to Gods in prayer, or be laid on graves in reverence — it wants to be laid on the path that patriotic soldiers walk to protect their motherland…

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