Monday, November 24, 2008

Planter masonry

I've started on the planter masonry in the front of my house. I want a roughly exponential spiral that appears to have somehow grown naturally in place. I also want it to afford a comfortable conversation with the front steps. Unfortunately I didn't realize how unlevel this part of the sidewalk foundation was until after I started laying bricks. I had wanted it a little out-of-level to promote drainage but it is a lot more noticeable that I thought it would be -- as you walk up from the neighboring house you're eye compares the lines of the planter to the front porch brickwork and it is very clear that they are out of sync. So I've change the design so that top part of the planter is deliberately crooked to exaggerate the effect in a "if you can't beat it, embrace it" design. Inevitably this limitation pushed me to a new place I wouldn't have gone and I like the new design better in some ways.

This is something that I really like about masonry -- you are forced to commit. In many ways, masonry is the exact opposite of software engineering. Software has a neverworld feeling: it is light, squishy, virtual, and totally forgiving -- if you screw up you just revert the version control. Masonry is heavy, real, and completely unforgiving -- when you screw up you either live with it or get out a sledge hammer. (One step I didn't like took me over a week of pounding with a hammer and chisel to remove -- about twice as long as it took me to build it in the first place.) Software's undo button permits a kind of intellectual laziness where anything that isn't exactly how you imagine is cast as merely a "bug" awaiting correction. With masonry you are forced into finding ways to convert mistakes into features. It is challenging but creatively healthy. I find myself everyday sitting on my porch for a few minutes staring at this pile of bricks and moving them around trying to decide what happens next. Then I lay the next course and think again.

1 comment:

Jim Greer said...

I am very attached to my intellectual laziness!

Looking good