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I was just staring at this poster Mr. Aali has done. You know which one I mean, the collage of Youssi's pictures and plans and shots of buildings. It got me reminiscing and then reminded me of, well, not exactly a story, but more a revelation that I've been intending to share with you for some time now. The whole thing happened quite a while ago. But it's been with me all this time.

I was always fascinated with the story of Beethoven and his Ninth Symphony and how he was deaf when he composed it and that he couldn't even hear the orchestra playing and so on. It always sounded to me as something out of the ordinary, a sign of pure genius. Then one night at Youssi and Shishi's place we were listening to some Beethoven, or something else maybe, and chatting, and the issue of Beethoven's suffering came up.

To my surprise Youssi didn't seem too impressed at all. He actually said that it wasn't really that important that Beethoven was deaf, because he could hear all of his music in his head anyway. He was a musician after all, wasn't he? Well, you can probably guess my astonishment at this matter-of-factly statement.

A few years later, I was doing a contract job for a consulting firm that was run by an architect who was also a former employee of Bonyan. We were chatting one late night. It was during the "ordeal" surrounding the initial design of the National Library that had made quite a few of the "elite" of Iranian architecture uncomfortable. Some of the bigger names, including this ex-Bonyan architect, had participated in a meeting in our office to discuss the design. A model and coloured plans were made available for the occasion.

Our ex-Bonyan architect had been one of the few defending Youssi's design. Not because he found it beautiful or functional or anything. He simply couldn't grasp the design as it was too huge a building. But his rationale for defending it was interesting. He said he couldn't understand the design and neither could the others. But he was sure Youssi knew what he had done, and that was good enough for him. Then he made this point: "Youssi's mind is like a virtual reality system. Unlike the rest of us, he doesn't draw something on paper trying then to envisage what it will look like. He creates the whole building in his head first and then draws the lines. He's the only one I've seen with this capability. None of the others could start grasping what he has done even if they pored over the plans for days."

It was quite a while later that I finally related these two incidences; hence the revelation. Youssi wasn't downplaying Beethoven's capability. Rather, in his unassuming manner, he was acknowledging, as something natural or to-be-expected, a faculty they both shared, be it in different domains.

Pedram Rahbari