Saturday, 8 February 2014

It's a Dog's Life

Two doggy incidents coloured my week, the first a simple quote, from Adolf Loos, that no matter what 'the dog will always curl up by the fire'. This is, of course, a testament to his lack of faith in political change and ranks alongside his marvellous observation that he was a communist only in the sense that he wanted everybody to be an aristocrat. Both are excellently representative of the spirit of decadence, which was, curiously, the subject of my first public and largely disastrous lecture at the Bartlett a long long time ago. Still everybody has to start sometime or other and with something or other. No regrets there.
Of course the point we might note in the Loos quote is that we are not dogs. Unlike dogs and cats and donkeys and caterpillars, humans have ideas and shelter regrets. We worry that we did or do not do things, that seems to me the essence of human life itself. It's painful, but it's real (to us). It's why we go to the pub.
One of the most unsatisfactory things about architecture school today is a climate of endeavour which distances ourselves from these things even if they are talked about and lauded all the time (as essences and meaning). It is as if students are not just once removed from their subject- for instance to a design project predicated on a view of 'bones' or 'chicken's arseholes' (both of which I heard talk of yesterday) but further in to a prospective dissertation subject such as 'boredom'. Twice removed from the reality of the architectural object is too far. Not on my watch I said.
In this context the second doggy quote is quite funny, since one third year student set about his H&T essay to experience the city as a dog. I nearly fell off my chair laughing. But we are not dogs I say, we can learn very little from my life as a dog, and anyway, if you follow a dog around the city all day the dog is going to get very confused.
In total, both doggy stories represent an abrogation of responsibility totally in tune with our times. Le Corbusier (or Luke Boozier as one of my first years unfortunately translated) loved his dog 'Pinceau'. He loved him so much that when he died, he bound his also much loved copy of  Don Quixote in his fur. But Le Corbusier did not confuse a dogs so called life with our own. Everybody please get real.

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