Can a brick talk?

The architect Louis Kahn famously told his students that one might ask a brick, "what do you want, brick?", to which the brick would reply, "I like an arch." A little cute, maybe, but I've found the underlying idea helpful. What Kahn was encouraging among designers is a certain receptiveness, a quieting down to begin to hear the quiet messages all around us; if we can do that, oftentimes our surroundings will guide us to the best designs. In his example, it's an arch: taking advantage of the brick's compressive strength--and, perhaps, honoring it's human dimensions and the skilled labor required to install it. My general translation of Kahn's adage is "what does this (house, project, situ

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