The diaries of L’Obscurier
The hugely influential artist, architect, sculptor, painter and social engineer revolutionised the way we think about the built environment and then drowned in the Mediterranean
Translated by Danvers Couchmere from the original haughty French
April 11, 1954.
I am currently presenting a lecture entitled ‘Must ALL New Architecture Be Authoritarian, In-Flexible and Simplistic?’ (NB this is neither a sarcastical nor a rhetorical question; the answer is Yes.)
I refuse to commence my lecture until members-of-the-audience are properly arranged, sitting attentively at equi-distant intervals. Last night alas, one member-of-the-audience had a horribly asymmetrical face and had to be removed.
My Numbered Thesis is as follows:
01.01 Architecture’s purpose is to impose order.
01.02 Architecture’s purpose is to defeat chaos.
02.01 Life is not chaos, but order.
02.02 Life’s purpose is to submit to architecture.
The Ancient Greeks understood this, but did not have the benefits of mass production and jazz. Now, in the 20th century, only one man can synthesise eternal truth and cheap building methods. I, L’Obscurier!
Of course my lecture is very up-to-date and incorporates a sequence of camera-slides to illustrate my Numbered Thesis. The Pyramid of Cestius. A motor car. A tortoise. A cement manufacturing plant. A … a picture of myself in a bathing costume on the beach!
What is the meaning of this?
Who is behind this shameful plot to undermine my authority?
Quite clearly, the culprit had access to my camera-slide library, and must therefore live under Maison L’Obscurier’s flat, rational roof.
There is an intolerable outbreak of casual laughter among some of the coarser members of the audience. I will not stand for it. Casual laughter is a decorative art, and MUST BE EXTINGUISHED.
A glorious morning on the beach, devising some new theories.
All is calm until lunchtime, when my reverie is disturbed by a large chattering family bearing buckets, spades and a picnic. After an hour or so of unstructured ‘merriment’, the parents inform their disgusting brood that they will retire for a while to the hôtel bar and that the children are to remain in situ.
Intolerable. And our social commentators wonder why young people today lack discipline, and prefer the kinema and football to fine arts!
The four children - circa five to 12-years-old - are making sandcastles. It is unbearable to watch, and after 10 minutes or so I am compelled to intervene. ‘Morons! These structures are feeble, and nauseating!’ I shout. I offer firm guidance on the principles of silicate cohesion, the correct matrix (8 x sand : 1 x water) and an appropriate architectural theory - Modernist.
The youngest begins to cry. I warn her, in no uncertain terms, that she is trying my patience, and shake a spade at her. All four urchins run away, screaming. So much for the resolve of youth!
A little later, I see them returning. Leading the way is the father, who is red-faced and shouting something. I cannot quite hear the words, but it is unpleasantly nuanced. I decide to take a constitutional swim. As I pull further away from the shore his ranting becomes less audible, although I can make out the word ‘drown’. Ah, the travails of genius. NB which these days seem to include a tingling sensation in my left side.
Ian Martin is away