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 18, 1954. A great epoch has begun. A new sociological ecto-plasm is abroad. Fortunately there exists an architectural theory - my own - which has been conceived with precisely this Sociological Ecto-Plasmicism in mind.
We must seize the moment and create a) masterpieces of architecture in the countryside for wealthy clients and b) industrially-produced city housing for the common man, purged of all ‘style’ and ‘custom’. These qualities are stifling and discourage intellectual curiosity among the wretched poor.
- The City of To-Day is doomed because it is not geometrical.
- The City of To-Morrow will be not doomed because it will be geometrical.
Once again I self-astonish with brilliance. Oh, inevitably the reactionary critics argue that my large-scale housing projects - in which members of the Working-Class are arranged vertically - amount to ‘social engineering’. Well then, very good. For does the engineer not refine and perfect? The Architect of To-Day is not some cruel tyrant, experimenting with humans as if they were laboratory-mice!
No. It is much more humane to experiment with actual mice, ‘hit-upon’ a solution and then apply it to human habitation. At Atelier L’Obscurier my assistants are conducting research into ‘spatial syntax’ in which Working-Class mice are released into a Modernist floor-plan and their circulation patterns recorded. In this way we may determine the form of future Working-Class Housing, without the need for so-called human ‘guinea pigs’.
Establishing a formula for housing construction would then allow us to lavish our attention upon the uplifting and instructional Art to be strategically incorporated into such programmes, a point I made at length the other day during an extremely awkward conversation via the tele-phone with M. Picasso. I have always preferred drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies. It is, however, demonstrably unsuitable for conversations via the tele-phone. A useful lesson learned.
This after-noon I shall swim in the sea. Swimming is not merely a ‘constitutional imperative’ but also a ‘creative subjunctive’ - an idea I have just written down, signed and dated.
When one is swimming, one’s head is clear of the day-to-day cares of work, of household-management, teaching, writing, theoretical rigour, petty rivalries, annoyances & cetera. The mind is free to imagine, to ask ‘what if…?’Indeed, the possibilities within the thought-world of a genius such as I, L’Obscurier, are as deep and wide as the Mediterranean itself.
Of course Mme. L’Obscurier is impervious. ‘Paf and pof! What good is it splashing around like a stupid walrus, thinking up yet more of your giddy nonsense? You will forget where you are again, swim too far from land and end up drifting out to sea on a strong tide, never to be seen again…’
She breaks off, solemnly considering the folly of her remarks, lost in thought. The duty of a paterfamilias is to show kindness as well as firmness. I pat her on the arm and assure her my understanding of oceanography is as dependable as my knowledge of the human spirit.
Ian Martin is away