Skip to content. Skip to departments. Skip to most popular. Skip to footer.


Brick Wars


By Mark Davis, Illustrations by Gilbert Ford

Published Jul 1, 2010 10:00 AM



It's a lazy afternoon at UCLA. Insects hum, birds chirp, undergrads toss Frisbees at the foot of Janss Steps.

But don't be fooled. All around the quad and beneath the pastoral setting, a secret war rages between new bricks and old bricks. Cracks have formed, chipping away at campus unity.

In this newest installment of our very irregular feature, "Interview with an Inanimate Object," our intrepid reporter scaled steep walls, crawled through dark crevices and scoured each walkway, leaving no stone unturned until he uncovered the facts behind the War of the UCLA Bricks!

Yes, the newer bricks are fighting with the old bricks. There are a lot of chipped feelings either way. Our correspondent recently was granted an exclusive interview with leaders from both sides and we have to warn you: His report from the front lines includes some shocking twists.

Can you explain for our readers what this war is all about?

Old Brick: These new bricks, they don't shoulder their weight!

New Brick: Baloney! You old bricks don't understand how modern building works.

Old Brick: Baloney yourself, goldbricker! In my day, we weren't just another pretty façade, stacked up to cover the real bearing walls. We did real work to get here. We didn't expect handouts and cushy placements.

New Brick: Listen, grandpa, you old bricks are a danger to everybody. One little tremor and your kind goes to pieces, falling all over yourselves. We all know about the mess you made on Royce Quad in 1994.

Old Brick: What do you know about it? All glamour, no depth, might as well be boudoir tile.

Disembodied Voice: You're both thick as bricks, if you ask me.

Sorry, who are you? And where are you?

New Brick: Alma! The mother brick!

Old Brick: Alma is the first brick laid on the UCLA campus. She lives at the bottom of the Arroyo Bridge.

Alma? How did you become part of this interview?

Alma: Silly human — don't you know about the mortar?

The mortar?

Alma: Yes, the mortar holding all these petty, warring bricks together. It carries all our communications back and forth. Where do you think UCLA Professor Leonard Kleinrock got the idea for the Internet in 1969? [Ed. Note: Actually, the Bruin computer scientist and his team sent the very first message over the ARPANET, the computer network that became the Internet, but who are we to argue with Alma?]

Really? How?

Alma: We sent him subliminal messages while he worked in his lab. He figured out how to take the idea into the human world.

I never knew ...

Alma: There's a lot you don't know. I keep tabs on you in your office, which needs to be cleaned, by the way.

Old Brick: Alma has been here the longest. She knows everything that happens at UCLA, from the very first day of construction.

Alma: And don't you forget it. It may take a while for word to get back to me, but I hear about it all, including this foolish little spat of yours. It's all a bunch of stuff and nonsense.

Old Brick: But —

Alma: But nothing, youngster. There are new bricks making up a bearing wall in the law building. And plenty of you old bricks are façades over buildings. And you youngsters, respect your elders. Without them, you wouldn't have a place to stand. New or old, near all of us came from the Pacific Clay brickyard in Lake Elsinore. We're all the same size and weight — not a brick plate or thin-cut brick among us, which is more than I can say for some other college campuses in L.A.

And that's the last I want to hear about this silly conflict.