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Can a brick talk?

September 19, 2017

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, situation) want?"  That is to say, what design solution will respect and enhance what's already here?  For example, a house with Spanish Revival elements will probably not want a modern addition; a new house on the California coast probably doesn't want to be Federal Revival.

  I look forward to helping you hear what your house wants!

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