Sometimes you encounter a thing that is not “properly” architectural, but which yet has something profound to say about the discipline.

That thing might be a passage of text, an image, an incident, an analogy, a construction even — and it strikes you in a very particular way, not because it is delightful (although there may also be that) but because it seems to say something you’ve been wanting to say, something you’ve been thinking but have not quite articulated, something lurking at the vague shadowy edges of your mind. It’s tantalizing, such a thing. It holds the promise of extension, expansion, the pushing-back of some frontier, or the naming of some truth, even if it is only one’s own. It seems to offer an aperture to a new space, a new insight.

So when you find such a thing, it’s a writerly instinct to examine it, to turn it over in words, to tap it first lightly, then harder; to sniff and shake it, to try and work out what small verities might lie within, and how to get them out. An essay is the way to do it. An essay is your lock pick and your sickle probe, your bevel chisel and your sledgehammer. To assay: to grope towards understanding through words. This is one such essay.