The brick – a most beautiful and useful artifact.
Architects love the brick. Architects’ wives love the brick. Builders, makers, doers, fixers, tinkerers love bricks.
They are ‘permutation toys’ (a poetic term for the rubik’s cube coined by child genius Ainan Celeste Cawley when he was 8 years old). Increments. Prosaic matter that gives substance to lyric impulse. En masse, bricks can lose their weight and solidity and yield soft curves, gravity-defying columns, spires and arches.
What’s not to like about bricks? Well, lots it seems. Some decades ago, the public turned against them. When was it? in the 70s or 80s? the brick lost its appeal to the middle class. No longer a sign of status, the brick house was spurned. By the 1990s and 2000s renovators were madly rendering brickwork, painting over it. Bricks were deemed pedestrian, institutional, charmless – associated with suburban sprawl and ‘brick venereals’.
The brick has an unbearable load. Is ‘overdetermined’.1 Regularly used as a metonym for pragmatic and soul-less urban or suburban development, it has been harshly judged, as if a co-conspirator in the schemes of tyrannous men.
The brick is inseparable in our minds and hearts from its uses and abuses. It has heightened significance as the means of urban, suburban and connurban development, and suffers the projections of our fears and contempt, our regrets and nostalgia, our hopes and fantasies.
When crumbling in ruins, bricks are picturesque and have nostalgic appeal. They can tend to the sublime. http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ruskin/atheories/3.1.html
The brick’s value is taken for granted. The support it provides (like that of a good wife/husband/partner) remains opaque.
There are books on the significance of other significant technologies – iron, bronze, steel.
It baffles me that bricks are still so often painted over.
So, with deference to the brick I finish this post with a Vera vintage scarf, that might make an appropriate gift for the architect’s wife.
Useful quote for all those misunderstood architects/bricks out there:
“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him”. David Brinkley.
An interesting phenomenon – brick lovers. http://brickloversblog.blogspot.com/
1. Overdetermination, the idea that a single observed effect is determined by multiple causes at once (any one of which alone might be enough to account for the effect), was originally a key concept of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overdetermination