Richard Rogers RA is an innovative architect who is behind the shellhouse idea. In short, this is IKEA concept extended to building houses. Pre-fab, cheap, fast, waterproof. And it can be stacked up to have more floors.
This weekend, the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts was turned into a construction site for a sample shellhouse.
The house is meant to be completed by tomorrow, the 13th, when it would become a colourful pendant to Joshua Reynolds’ somber monument, and RA visitors would be able to appreciate its beauty from the inside as well.
The building must be easy-to-assemble, for I’d not seen much of constructing going on in those few hours I spent there popping in and out of the RA for alfresco coffees (though “al cemento” would be a better term).
During all that time, Joshua Reynolds was sadly trying to reach the semi-erected house with his brush, as if driven to add colour to it. He shouldn’t have worried. Colour was provided a-plenty by relaxed construction workers and machinery:
Watching this “constructive performance” made me think of bricks. Yes. Bricks.
The terrace of my living room in London opens on a wall that’s partially made of bricks. Differently coloured, bearing the scars of wear and tear, randomly sized. Here it is, my wall:
It can be watched endlessly. It makes the observer think of generations of bricklayers called to attend to it throughout the ages of its existence, with their unique cement recipes, monogrammed trowels, and the traditional bricklayer songs. And at that moment you realise you don’t really know the traditional bricklayer songs. This is what inspires you to write “Another Brick in the Wall” (though Roger Waters may never admit that)
Why did I start thinking of bricks in the first place, though?
Because London can be steel, glass, and concrete, all nicely modern and shapely, but it is London only if there is a brick wall that tells you some things stay as they have always been.
I love countries where traditions are at least partially about preserving history (a camouflage for collective idiocy of the past), because I love a good story, and history has plenty of those.
Too many shellhouses, and the bricks would be gone from life and memory, replaced by madly coloured IKEA boxes. Generations of bricklayers would be forever restless. No “another brick in the wall” would be written. No bricks means no easy-to-grab weapon to settle disputes, as well!
Scary, isn’t it?
From a police report:
“…police investigation has shown that the car alarm went off not because a brick smashed the windshield. It is the windshield that was smashed by the brick because the car alarm went off…”
And the photograph that convincingly illustrates the benefits of brick availability:
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