De Botton concluded that modern architecture’s problem wasn’t that it was incapable of making people happy, but that most people—especially in Britain—had too few opportunities to experience first-class modern buildings that aren’t museums, offices or airports.
"Unless you own a modern house, you can’t know what it’s like to live in one, because they’re all in private hands."
Alain de Botton, quoted by Paul Goldberger in the April 11 issue of the New Yorker.
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Pictures from the Neutra VDL a couple of weeks ago. Most modernist houses get the usual architectural photo treatment: it’s all big lines and bold geometry, pictures in vivid color as perfect blueprints. But that pristine moment doesn’t last long, and people don’t live in model homes. Old moderns have trouble with nature (the flat roof doesn’t deal well with rain), but the small scale wear and tear is more interesting. There’s a big perfect glass maze, and then small human paths worn through here and there. Laundry piles up, dust settles, wood wears in familiar, particular grooves. The Neutra VDL house is now a monument to mid-century and a meeting place for sharp name tags, but it’s also a place where people did dishes, read the paper, and took out the trash. You slowly get a sense of the real family that tried to live in a idea of perfect living, and where the two got along and where they didn’t.
And I feel exactly what at this debarking moment?
At least a hundred things at once, all competing to take the moment and make it their own, undramatic life to a gritty, knowable kernel.
This, of course, is a minor but pernicious lie of literature, that at times, like these, after significant or disappointing divulgences, at arrivals or departures of obvious importance, when touchdowns are scored, knock-outs recorded, loved ones buried, orgasms notched, that at such times we are any of us altogether in an emotion, that we are within ourselves and not able to detect other emotions we might also be feeling, or be about to feel, or prefer to feel. If it’s literature’s job to tell the truth about these moments, it usually fails, in my opinion, and it’s the writer’s fault for falling into such conventions.
From The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. I took the picture in Ithaca, between signs that advised against suicidal bridge dives.
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