I live in North Park. I walk my dog every morning. I’m used to seeing trendy shops popping up every so often on University and El Cajon respectively. Steel and wood, wood and steel, with a concept or gimmick of “nostalgia”. These places are starting to feel like Starbucks popping up everywhere. You know the artisan handcrafted bullshit served or made by a guy with a beard. I don’t hate it, I like where I live, I am very happy I have these type of businesses around, they provide a wonderful world of choices. No better place to find a good cup of coffee.
Sometimes, rarely, some of these businesses stand out, but I emphasize the rarely. Not to be a dick, but because most of the time these shops look very similar, colors, fonts, logos, steel and wood, wood and steel. I was walking my dog one morning half asleep. There it was, standing rigid doing what it was designed to do, I was staring right at it, it felt like it was flipping me off. It was the separating “fence” outside Tacos Perla.
I remember I ate there one time when I was drunk, I thought those tacos were an insult to the Mexican Culture, but then again we are spoiled with great Mexican food in San Diego, it’s hard to judge. This “fence” made me kind of angry. The low wall acting as a divider/fence is made out of decorative brick, wrapped in steel. Fucking steel. The steel doesn't bother me, it is the emotional connection I have to the material. Decorative brick is embedded in my memory as a place and feeling of comfort. I didn't realize I liked this material so much, until I saw it being abused as a trendy ornament in boutique shops.
I became infatuated with the material long before I was interested in architecture. I remember seeing it everywhere in the small town where my grandmother is from in Mexico. People had multiple uses for it, screens, fences, shelves, etc. It gave me a comfortable feeling, a feeling of being “home”. Maybe it was because my grandmother had a kitchen that was partially outdoors, divided by a screen of bricks that served as a towel holder, spice rack, dish dryer, etc. As a kid I used to run in and out snacking on whatever grandma was cooking.
As I walked around more in the neighborhood I noticed it more often. Not in trendy places, but old buildings, neither good or bad, not trying to make a statement, but just being an ornament. There is something more to the history and presence of this material in North Park, I will find out sooner or later. For now I have to let go of the idea that this material is precious, even though it feels like the cool kids picking up shitty clothes to be ironic, pointing and laughing at the irony. Decorative brick is not ironic, it’s a beautiful material that deserves respect!
It is a strange sensation letting go of personal feelings about it and just letting it “be”. Louis Khan once said “we must ask what a brick wants to be”, in essence we must feel the material, we must experience the material in the right setting, when it works it just feels right, even if it’s wrapped in fucking steel.