I'm not sure where my love of CMU comes from. Some objects you can pinpoint the time and place when you fell for them, but I feel like I've always loved CMU. One of my earliest memories is of a two story dollhouse I made in a CMU in our back yard in Brookline. I like to think my feelings for CMU are about empathy. It's not generally a beloved building material. It's more often associated with gas station restrooms than with high end design. There are some notable exceptions like Aldo Van Eyck's Sonsbeek Pavilion, Will Bruder's Byrne Residence (which amazingly has it's own website) and much of Palm Springs where CMU is somehow as appropriate to the place as palm trees and rocks.
This recent article in the NY Times magazine - something of an ode to glass brick - echoes some of my thoughts about CMU. The material is ordinary, practical, but when it's used right it can become something elegant and surprising. It's the building equivalent of rooting for the underdog. I want CMU to realize it's full potential. CMU isn't particularly sustainable, but if that could be fixed (like this recycled content version or even better this version ByFusion made from ocean plastic waste) then I would be all in on CMU.
Unlike it's glamorous cousin the brick, CMU doesn't patina in quite the same way. But it is an icon. The form is recognizable enough for Tom Sachs to fashion one out of plywood in his amazing way of commenting by hand crafting the industrial. Someday I'd like to design a beautiful CMU house - not for my dolls, but to live in.