Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Woke up dreaming I was working for Alison and Peter Smithson. It was not a good dream. No doubt my subconscious was reminding me fairly vividly that I might be viewing modernism through rose tinted spectacles (see below post). True, my experience of working in the serious modern architectural office was awful. First I was stuck in an attic and asked to draw the plan of a church for weeks, then I was stuck in a basement and asked to draw a design for a bathroom, including chrome traps, for what seemed like months. I was, I think, judged pretty poor at both, so I was quickly dispatched to colouring in, where I excelled.
It was only when I went to work for a small practise where the partner did just about everything with a Monte Blanc fountain pen and admitted his desire to come to work in doublet and hoes did working life become bearable, and later when I worked with Tim Pyne at the righteously named (and Shoreditch based) WORK we just did it all in the pub. That was quite excellent.
I don't want to give the impression we just went out and got pissed, not at all, the pub is quite a jesuitical learning environment. Whilst any plonker can talk shit in a bar, the cultivation of more learned dissidents in say, the Coach and Horses in Soho took about ten years, it was the Oxbridge of informal education. You started low in the cheap seats with your notebook thinking about your novel, and ended up by osmosis taking your place rightfully in your particular spot, with the novel safely unpublished and certainly no notebook, tossing wisdom like hand grenades at others who mooched in with exactly the same purpose in mind. It was a terrific way to spend the day, and now I think about it, getting up in the morning with the express intention of doing little else but go to the pub was terrific (if a little short sighted). Similarly the Great Eastern Dining Rooms in the nineties.
So as you can see, the idea of FLW's fellowship (like going to church) or having Mies peer over your shoulder for ages in total silence (like working in a factory) or, as in my dream, not being able to either work out Alison's porch detail or her paperback book cover design or the priority I should give to either under threat, is impossible.
I can only conclude that if I were asked entry level advice to the world of work (not WORK) I would have to say perhaps certain characters can only be happy working for somebody they think they are much better than even if they are not, it rather puts the oweness back on employer, leaving you to relax and get on with the task at hand until hopefully, at five pm or thereabouts, out comes the fizzy wine.

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