Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Working Day

For most of his working life, Le Corbusier rose at six, did some exercises, had breakfast at eight, painted sketched or wrote till lunch, went to the office for two, and was home for evening pastis by five thirty. That means he supervised all that architecture, all eight volumes of it, in just three hours each afternoon, at the end of which, apparently, he'd start to grumble, mutter something about how difficult architecture was, and fuck off home. Mies was even more minimal, rising at noon, with cocktails at six. I imagine this routine is the same for all great figures; Alvaro Siza famously sitting in his cafe sketching this and that- all that sort of thing- it is charming and civilized. The thing to distrust, it would seem, is the work ethic, or rather, the thing to cling to, is charisma; Corbusier could not have motivated his beehive at Rue de Sevres without that. However you need other tools too, things that allow the office to do the Unite at Nantes 'by themselves' or Pierre Jeanneret to be left to do the colossal secretariat in Chandigarh 'by himself'. There was a great deal in LC's thinking to do with making design easier, including I suppose the modulor which I might personally find both unfathomable in use and uncomfortable in result, but which would at least satisfy the proclivities of my boss if I used it. Same of course, with Mies, but with less instructions. Working without method must be just guesswork, in fact, it must be ghastly to have to be original all the time, to expend all that energy; the very enemy of charm and civility and thought. There is an inevitability to 'boring', it's no bad thing.

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