Category Archives: CAREERS

things we can learn from the careers of other architects

Career Case Studies #11: Kunio Maekawa (前川 國男)

The history of modern architecture in Japan is short and relatively well documented even though major protagonists such as Antonin Raymond and Bruno Taut neglected to mention each other in their respective histories.

Kunio Maekawa, Junzō Yoshimura and Junzo Sakakura were, along with Togō Murano, the first generation of modern Japanese architects. Togō Murano travelled but never worked outside Japan, and never aligned himself with any architect, movement, or style and this is probably why he is least known. Kunio Maekawa and Junzo Sakakura both spent time in Le Corbusier’s atelier, Maekawa 1928-1930 and Sakakura 1930-1937, eventually becoming studio chief. Kenzo Tange spent time in Maekawa’s studio. That fame breeds fame is not in doubt, but we always assume it’s the result of talent being somehow transmitted even though there’s no evidence for it. What’s probably learned is an attitude towards marketing and cashflow that, combined with an innate talent, means the three major preconditions for architectural fame are in place. Thus we have Le Corbusier – Maekawa – Tange – Isozaki …

Kunio Maekawa came from a privileged family with samurai background, and studied architecture at the the Tokyo Imperial University, today’s still prestigious University of Tokyo. There, he felt more affinity with Le Corbusier than what The Bauhaus stood for on Gropius’ watch. There’s nothing wrong with taking opportunities one is given so, immediately after graduation, Maekawa’s uncle who was a League of Nations diplomat, recommended him to Le Corbusier who let him work as an unpaid draftsman 1928-1929 and then mostly under Le Corbusier’s cousin Pierre Jeanerret. This is no surprise because Le Corbusier wasn’t in the office much 1928–1929. [c.f. Architecture Myths #20: The Villa Savoye] Maekawa worked on the Mundaneum proposal famously criticized in 1929 by Karel Tiege. [c.f. Architecture Misfit #9: Karel Tiege] and was there when Villa Savoye was being hastily redesigned. Oh to have been une mouche on the wall in Le Corbusier’s studio in 1928!

Whose idea was it to remove the top floor, shrink the basement and living room, route the sewage down through the hallway and madame’s bathwater down the column in the maid’s bedroom? Was It LC by telegram from Moscow or South America? Was it Jeanneret winging it? Or intern Maekawa doing the best he could? History is silent. LC’s indifference to the fate of the house in later years suggests it wasn’t him.

Anyway, Villa Savoye was completed the same year as the Mundaneum proposal. The former has been as actively remembered to the same degree as the Mundaneum has been actively forgotten. It’s a dog.

Perhaps Maekawa had seen too much. We don’t know why he returned to Japan in 1930 but, when people leave a company, they usually feel its not going to get any better and that’s always a combination of being overworked, underpaid and under-appreaciated. Back in Japan, he immediately started work at Antonin Raymond’s office where he was to stay for five years – an eternity in architect years. There, he was architect-in-charge of the Viscount Soma Residence (1932) and the Akaboshi Tetsuma House (1933), both of which busy especially the latter makes me suspect the degree of Raymond’s contribution.

Raymond no doubt paid Maekawa more than Le Corbusier but even so, I suspect Maekawa had financial help from his “privileged” family when, in 1935, he left Raymond to start his own office, Mayekawa Kunio Associates. TImes began to get hard. Japan had just invaded Manchuria. Non-Japanese were increasingly not welcome in Japan so Raymond and his wife left in 1939 to sit out the war in the US. All but the last two of the following projects were between Japan’s 1935 invasion of Manchuria and its 1945 surrender.

  • Hinomoto Hall (1936)
  • Memorial Hall to the Founding of the Nation (1937, competition)
Kishi Memorial Hall, 1940
  • Sato Residence, Tokyo (1937)
  • Sato Residence, Karuizwa (1937)

Since 1937, restrictions had been in place on the use of metal in buildings because of the war, effectively ruling out the use of concrete but, with Kishi Memorial Hall, Maekawa House and Kinokuniya Bookstore, Maekawa was making wood buildings and spaces that hadn’t been seen before in Japan. I can’t find any information on the Various military projects (1938-1941) but then I didn’t expect to. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were in Manchuria but history is silent. However, as former boss Raymond discovered in the US, when it’s wartime and the military comes knocking and offering you a commission, it’s probably better to not refuse.

  • Various military projects (1938-1941)
  • Kao Commercial Bank Employee Housing (1939)
  • Kishi Memorial Hall (1940)
  • Maekawa House (1942)
  • Kinokuniya Bookstore (1947)
  • Keio University Hospital project (1947–1948)

On the basis of his own house, Maekawa had a comfortable war. The house he designed for himself is considered a treasure and, as is the way when talking about modern Japanese architecture, many saw it as combining “values borrowed from his European mentors with the vernacular building traditions of Japan”. Half close your eyes and you can see the living room pre-empt Unité d’Habitations (1952) by ten years.

Publishing and bookselling were high-growth businesses in post-war Japan. Maekawa’s next major building was the post-surrender Kinokuniya Bookstore in Shinjukju (1947). It was a two story wood building with much glass on the proportional street facade or what would have been the street facade if the space between it and the street hadn’t been crowded with post-war slum.

Maekawa focused on the mass production of prefabricated structures and wrote a lot on that topic, mistakenly believing like Gropius that assembly lines and mass production would make quality products more widely accessible. A side benefit of this would be the retooling of companies that had formerly engaged in wartime production and so it was at Maekawa’s suggestion that the Manchurian Aircraft Company reposition itself as a manufacturer of housing components after Japan’s defeat. (Buckminster Fuller had been thinking along the same lines in the US.) As ever, prefabrication came to nothing. Maekawa’s company produced perhaps 1,000 units in five years. Later, companies such as MUJI were to do it much much better.

Maekawa’s 1959 Harumi Flats apartment project in Tokyo was one of the earliest high-rise apartment buildings in Japan. If you want to, you can see a little bit of Le Corbusier in it. It was demolished in 1996. Maekawa is probably best remembered for his 1961 Tokyo Metropolitan Festival Hall, better known and loved by Japanese as Tokyo Bunka Kaikan venue. “Recognized as Maekawa’s grandest and best known work, the Festival Hall has been praised for the humanism that finds expression in Maekawa’s various choices of materials such as the dramatic use of marble sheeting on the interior walls. Overall the design pays tribute to rural Japan and draws inspiration from the classic minka (farm house) structure.” Maybe it does. Squint and you can see a bit of Chandigarh there too.

Maekawa is said to have “gone back” to the aesthetic of Le Corbusier in his later years but it must have been hard for him, always being remembered for having worked for Le Corbusier for two years, and Kenzo Tange having worked for him for four (1938–1942). It’s probably better to be remembered for one’s protegées than for being one. It was probably astute of Tange to go back to Tokyo Imperial University in 1942 just prior to Pearl Harbour and the US entering the Pacific War. There, Tange studied city planning and was made professor in 1947. His four years with Maekawa were the only time he worked for anyone else. Tange was soon to make his name as the architect who gave Japan symbols for its recovery, reconstruction and rejuvenation but Maekawa should at least be remembered as an architect who kept modern architecture in Japan alive from one side of the war to the other.



Further Reading:

Career Case Study #12: Antonin Raymond

1888 – 1976

Antonin Raymond is important enough to be called “The father of Modern Architecture in Japan” but he’s not so well known. He’s not “taught”. At first I thought he might be a misfit but this is a career case study. I’ll explain why. First some facts I’ve pieced together from the sources at end.

Raymond was born in 1888 in Bohemia which is now part of the Czech Republic and, in 1906, entered the Czech Polytechnic Institute where, sometime around 1908 he saw a small monograph of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and, in 1910, a copy of Wrights Wasmuth Portfolio just after it was published. On the back of that, he promptly emigrated to the US as soon as he completed his studies. He would have been 22. He worked with Cass Gilbert for three years, doing external architecture details for the Woolworth Building which, when it was completed in 1913, was the world’s tallest skyscraper. He also worked on the Austin, Nichols and Company Warehouse in Brooklyn which, in the way of architectural biographies, is said to have given him “an insight into the structural and textural properties of concrete.[5] It was completed in 1915 so Raymond’s three years with Gilbert began 1910 at the earliest and ended 1915 at the latest. He is now 27.

One source says Raymond began studying painting at New York’s Independent School of Art in 1912 “because he was bored” [which suggests to me that either he or Cass were difficult to work with]. With multiple sources, dates don’t always agree, so he could have still been working for Cass while studying painting, but probably not when he met his future wife on the way back from a painting trip to Italy, marrying her in 1914. He became an American citizen in early 1916 and changed his surname from Reimann to Raymond. Now, his wife was born in France but raised in New York, was introduced to Japanese art and design at Columbia University and studied painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Returning to New York, she positioned herself in New York’s avant-garde art circle and ran a successful graphic and illustration studio. I mention this because it was his wife’s New York art connections that, in 1916, led to Raymond working for Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin WI.

Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel was constructed 1919-1923 so Raymond was involved with its design in the US sometime after 1916 but, after a spell in the army, he and his wife relocated to Japan in 1920 to oversee its design and construction. He did this for one year before he was dismissed by Wright. Raymond is said to have been

  1. Bored with the work [for the second time?]
  2. Concerned that Wright’s Mayan-lite “design had nothing in common with Japan, its climate, its traditions, its people and its culture”[8] and
  3. Disagreed with Wright’s preference for encasing concrete in brickwork .

Perhaps they just didn’t get on. It didn’t matter for, one month after his dismissal, Raymond, his wife and Leon Whittaker Slack (?) set up the American Architectural and Engineering Company in Tokyo and their career in Japan began. Their first major building was the Tokyo Women’s Christian College.

It’s a Woolworth Building/Prairie House mashup that, in the way of architecture wikis, is said “to demonstrate Raymond’s interest in Czech cubism and the work of Auguste Perret” and presumably Japan, it’s climate, its traditions, … Construction began in 1924, one year after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that destroyed Raymond’s own house so, in 1924, he designed and built himself a new one out of concrete in Tokyo’s Azabu district. This is it.

Cashflow is always a mystery with architects’ careers. Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t known for paying high salaries but, three years after Wright dismissed him, Raymond builds his own house on land in a central part of Tokyo. Perhaps he arrived in Japan with a big bag of family cash like Serge Chermayeff, or perhaps his wife was the main breadwinner 1921-24 with design and decoration work.

Almost entirely in concrete and with metal windows and steel railings, it’s clearly not inspired by Wright. It’s said the interior had tubular furniture but I can’t see any in this next screenshotted photogtraph. Raymond buildings are very under-photographed.

Mention of tubular furniture inside madesme think of Breuer chairs but they weren’t designed until 1925 so whose could it have been?

Architectural Digest tells me that, since 1919, Milanese company Columbus had been making and marketing a complete range of tubular furniture. It might have been theirs or copies of.

Courtesy of the Columbus Historical Archive, via Architectural Digest

Antonin Raymond is said to have been a very prolific designer with over 300 projects in 50 years of practice. This is selection of his buildings 1924–1932 omits the Hoshi University Building (1924). There are probably others.

Italian Embassy, Nikko (1922)

Raymond had been a member of the Tokyo Golf Club in 1922, two years after his arrival. He designed their new 1932 clubhouse in the new style fashionable from Moscow to London at the time but there was no time to appreciate it because Japan had invaded Manchuria the year before. The building and grounds were almost immediaftely requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Army as part of Japan’s war drive. Leon Whittacker Slack wasn’t around anymore and the practice was renamed Antonin Raymond, Architect.

Tokyo Golf Club, Saitama (1932)

This next paragraph has been copied and pasted around the internet. [In the years 1924-38] “…,

their practice flourished; they built residences, embassies, clubs, universities, churches, schools, and factories. During these years, their work quickly evolved from its Wrightian origins through a period of abstraction and material experimentation in concrete, paralleling the European modernists’ work of August Perret and Robert Mallet-Stevens. By the late 1920s and early 1930s they had perhaps the most avant grade practice in Asia as proponents of the then just emerging International Style. However, they quickly understood the limits of strict Modernist Functionalism as evangelized by Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus and the Purism of Le Corbusier. By the late 1930’s, they evolved their own unique fusion of modernism and vernacular architecture that would portent the Regional Modernism in America and Scandinavia of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. “

There must be more because this list of presumably the major works lists only three houses (one of which – Summer House – was another house for themselves) and an extension for a former client for the period 1933-34 and nothing between 1935 and 1939 when they left for the US because war with the US was imminent. The Sino-Japan war of 1931-32, the occupation of Manchuria and the 1937 Nanjing Massacre had all happened and widely reported in the Japanese press. With increasing friction between the US and Japan, foreign clients and good-paying commissions were almost certainly drying up for non-Japanese civilian architects. Time to leave.

Viscount Soma Residence (1932)
Akeboshi Tetsuma House, Tokyo (1933)
St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Karuizawa (1934)
Raymond Farm remodelling, New Hope, 1939

Back in the US, Raymond took Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship as a model and started the New Hope Experiment for apprentices to do studio and farm work but, in 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and the US immediately declared war.

Research had already been underway to develop new types of napalm-based firebombs for carpet-bombing Japanese and German cities and, in 1943, work began on constructing model villages to field test these new bombs. A German village and a Japanese village were built and rebuilt several times on land at Dugway, near Salt Lake City. Erich Mendelson was responsible for the design of German Village and Antonin Raymond was responsible for the design of Japanese Village. Raymond was chosen because he was in the US, had good knowledge of Japan and its buildings, and had designed the New York headquarters and staff housing in Yokohama for one of the project’s stakeholders, the Standard Oil Company. With the US now at war, saying no probably wasn’t an option. Raymonds task was to ensure the houses were made as authentically as possible.

“The Japanese Village at Dugway Proving Ground: An Unexamined Context to the Firebombing of Japan”, Dylan J. Plung, The Asia-Pacific Journal, April 15, 2018 Volume 16 | Issue 8 | Number 3, Article ID 5136

Some 600 tons of firebombs had already been dropped on Japan prior to March 9-10, 1945 when 2,000 tons were dropped on Tokyo. 100,000 deaths. The testing and subsequent firebombing were considered a success. Nobody comes out of this looking good.

Whether out of remorse or for business opportunity, Raymond obtained special permission from General MacArthur for he and his wife to return to Japan and reopen an office to help with “the rebuilding” of Japan. It was a good move but this list makes no mention of embassies, embassy housing, factories or mass housing.

[US embassy employee housing: Perry Apartments (left, 1952) and Harris Apartments (right, 1953)

The 1951 Reader’s Digest Tokyo Office Building is regarded as an important building in the history of modern Japanese architecture.

https://www.oldtokyo.com/readers-digest-building-tokyo-c-1955/

The use of concrete, the size, the proportions, the slight cantilever, and the implied pilotis remind me of Kenzo Tange’s 1955 Hiroshima Peace Center, commissioned the same year and, by association, the house he designed for himself in 1953.

Kenzo Tange, own house, 1953

Tange and Raymond are both said to have reconciled Western modernism with the Japanese tradition.

St. Anselm’s Church, Tokyo, 1961
Gunma Music Center (1961)
https://journal.rikumo.com/journal/the-work-of-antonin-raymond

What to make of all this? Is Antonin Raymond the Father of Modernism in Japan? He could be. Is he a misfit architect? I don’t think so, although being relatively unknown and not taught is something he shares with most other misfit architects. Not having a single classifiable style isn’t going to build a brand or make an architect a representative of a style or an era but still that’s not enough. The Japanese architect Tōgō Murano is also little known outside Japan. He was born two years before Raymond, died eight years after and also had a career of over 50 years in which he also designed over 300 buildings but Murano designed every building as if he was designing something for the first time. None are similar but amongst them is a very high proportion of truly wonderful buildings. With Murano, I sense a consistent passion across the diverse buildings. With Raymond each one seems like an exercise, especially the post-war ones 1955–1968. They don’t feel like they were designed in the midst of a period of enormous artistic renewal across every field of art in Japan. Raymond was competent and ambitious but I just don’t think he cared that much about buildings.

If people claim that Antonin Raymond is Father of Modern Architecture in Japan it might be less because of his actual output but by his influence on other architects. Raymond was the pre-eminent foreign architecture working in Japan so it was natural for Kunio Maekawa to work for him when he returned from France after a stint in Le Corbusier’s atelier. There was also Junzō Yoshimura who worked in Le Corbusier’s atelier and Antonin’s offices in both Japan and the US. The era of the foreign architect blending Western sensibilities with Japanese traditions was about to end.


Further reading:

  • “The Making of Modern Japanese Architecture: From 1868 to the present”, David B. Stewart, 1987
  • Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noemi Raymond“, Mari Sakamoto Nakahara and Ken Tadashi Oshima

Career Case Study #11: Juliaan Lampens

In the 2011 book, Angelique Campens compiled a list of projects and buildings that Lampens acknowledged, suggesting the existence of others either forgotten or unmemorable. I’ve combined her list with one from a 2019 Bachelor’s thesis by Andrea Ligao of the Politecnico di Milano and that includes some of the more obscure projects and competition entries. [Nice work, Andrea!] In my list below, any building we saw in the last post and that’s part of the narrative will be bolded, and any competitions or unbuilt work will be italicized. The buildings we saw last week are only a small part of a larger picture. I’ve repeated this list, with images, at the end of the post. You’ll see from the unbuilt work and the unpublished projects that there’s recurring themes and preoccupations for the writers of future monographs to theorize about. As it stands, the list is still an approximation but the early years now look more realistic although there was a lean period 1951–1958. The 1958 Expo surely inspired Lampens because soon after is a flurry of international competitions as well as his own house from 1960 that began his career proper. 1974 marked the beginning of Lampens’ teaching career but the practice was busier than ever. I’d expect Lampens to have employed at least one senior architect and one junior architect from the mid-1960s, and possibly one or two more for the period 1975–1980.

JULIAAN LAMPENS: List of Projects

JULIAAN LAMPENS: LIST OF PROJECTS
1945Small Family house, Nazareth, East Flanders
1948Two-Family House Knudde, Nazareth, East Flanders
1950[establishment of practice]
Single-family house
Single-family house
Three terraced houses
1951Van Hove Clothing Shop, Nazareth, East Flanders
1953Doctor’s House Vermaerke, Nazareth, East Flanders
1957National Housing Institute: The Modern Ardennes House (special mention for originality)
1958House Cooreman, De Pinte
1959Thirty-nine small land-ownership houses, De Pinte
1960The European Home Competition, Preliminary design for an apartment building (third place)
National Architecture Competition: Sports Centre at the Watersportbaan, Ghent
Lampens House, Van Hove, Nazareth, East Flanders
1961International architecture competition: Euratom European Institute for Transuranium Elements, Karlsruhe
1962House Delbeke, Kortrijk
1964International architecture competition: Madrid Opera House, Madrid
1966The Chapel of Our Blessed Lady of Kerselare, Edelare, Belgium
House Dhondt, Sax, Oosterzele
1967Vandenhaute-Kiebooms House, Zingem, Belgium
House Vierstraete, Gand
1968House Diane Laampens, Gavere, Belgium
House Claus, Maarkedal
Sint-Kruis~Male Church, Bruges
House Claus, Etikove, Maarkedal
1969House De Vos-Smesman, Eke (Nazareth)
House Pijpaert with butcher’s, Nazareth
Residenze estive Sint-André, Koksijde (Apartments, Oostduunkerke)
1970Eke Public Library, Eke, Belgium
House Jozef Vandenhaute, Zingem
1971Country House Claus, Maarkedal
1972National architecture competition: University Institute Antwerpen (Wilrijk)
Reception area for tourism office, Blankenberge
1973House Derwael–Thienpont, Gavere, Belgium
House Jozef Claus (Zero) with Factory, Eke (Nazareth)
House Bauters, Maarkedal
Extension to House Vanhove–Volkaert, Eke (Nazareth)
1974Van Wassenhove House, Laethem-Saint-Martin (near Ghent), Belgium
1975House Libeert, Komen
National architecture competition: City Hall and Administrative Centre, Lokeren
1976House/Atelier Wallaert, Wannegem–Lede
House VandenHaute-Vereecken A, De Pinte
Studio and house for the painter Wallaert, Wannegem-Lede
1977International architecture competition: Pahlavi National Library Project, Tehran, Iran
1978House De Meyere–Dhondt, Merelbeke
House Merckaert, Geraardsdbergen
Loft Lauwers (a.k.a. House in Lauwers Hangar), Nazareth  
National Boerenkrijg Museum (a collaboration with Jo Van Den Berghe)
1981Architecture competition: Sint-Lucas Secondary Art School, Ghent
1983International Architecture competition: Social housing for Stawion, Amsterdam
1988House De La Ruelle–Van Moffaert, Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium
1990House Wouter/Dierick Lampens. Semmerzake
1992House Dieter/Hartmann Lampens, Semmerzake
1997International architecture competition: Art & Music Centre,, Javäskylä (Finaland)
2002House Velghe–Verlinden, Deinze, Belguim
2002House Vandenhaute-Van Eylen, Leuven (collaboration with Luc De Vos)
2012House Russo, Uccle (collaboration with Luc De Vos)
Monument E17, Nazareth (collaboration with Luc De Vos)

Lampens produced 57 projects, 11 of which were competitions. Of the 46 commissions, 41 were built and 5 not. Of those 41, Lampens looks like being remembered by only nine of them. Although four of that nine are heritage protected, any nine projects could be used to illustrate any number of narratives, if narratives are what we want, and if narratives are what an architect’s career is supposed to condense into.

Lampens was born near Ghent, went to school in Ghent, had a practice near Ghent, and died near Ghent.

Born in 1926, he was 24 when he started his practice in 1950. This part of architects’ careers is often undocumented. Starting a practice is always made to sound so simple. I’d always believed that as soon as there’s one job underway and the promise of a next then it’s as good a time as any to start a practice. Because Lampens never moved far from Ghent, I’d expect he had a supportive family that gave him the confidence if not also some early clients and financial security but this wasn’t the case. He was studying art at the Higher Institute for Art and Vocational Training of the Sint-Lucas School in Ghent and a teacher there suggested to Lampens’ father that his son enrol in the architectural course “because he was such a good draftsman”. It must have been a good call because Lampens completed his first house before he finished his studies.

Lampens’ first buildings were traditional in style …

Biographies usually have a sentence that goes like this. “Having been profoundly influenced by his experience of the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, Lampens subsequently made a radical change of course and built his own house in 1960, which represented a major turning point in his career.” Or this: “Although he started his career with more traditional architecture, Lampens’ visit to Expo 58 in Brussels changed his architectural style to brutalism and concrete, much like the styles of Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.” We’re then told that his first house for himself in 1960 was very unlike anything he did prior to 1958.

… but in 1958 when Lampens visited the Brussels Expo he decided he was some sort of Modernist.

It’s never made clear what the catalyst for this change might have been for the Brussels Expo was as eclectic as any exposition before or after. Despite its dramatic cantilevery, something of Mies van Der Rohe might have been visible in the West German Pavilion by Egon Eiermann & Sep Ruf but, as a style, Le Corbusier was absent, instead being represented by Iannis Xenakis who was working in his office at the time. Lampens was to do nothing like The Philips Pavilion and nor, for that matter was LC. Lampens was to resist imitating the decorative CMU of of Edward Durrell Stone’s US Pavilion. He was to shun the shell concrete forms that architects of the time were exploring, notably Eero Saarinen in the US and Roy Grounds in Australia.

Although Lampens was to be later associated with concrete, he had no time for the audacious structural expressionism that concrete enabled. The Mexican Pavilion by architects Rafael Mijares Alcerreca and Pedro Ramirez Vasquez was particularly accomplished but we see nothing of it in Lampens’ later work and if he saw something in Kunio Maekawa’s Japan Pavilion, he never mentioned it. Finally, we have never again seen the likes The Atomium, from Lampens or anyone else.

It’s not necessary for Lampens to have been influenced by anything or anyone specific as the enthusiasm and optimism of the Expo might have been all he needed, although it’s true that optimism was largely conveyed by non-traditional architecture. Lampens is quoted as saying “Every healthy Belgian visited the world’s fair. It was due in part to the world expo of modern architectural styles that such work became accepted and established in Belgium. The masses saw the possibilities of technology and started to believe in modern architecture and I felt that the climate was ready to build in a modern way in Belgium.” We do know that Lampens was impressed with the Norwegian Pavilion designed by Sverre Fehn and saw its potential for structures that were light and open.

The 1958 Norwegian Pavilion by Sverre Fehn is not to be confused with the 1962 Nordic Pavilion Fehn designed for Venice.

“He constantly tried to reach an absolute reconciliation in the antagonism between Le Corbusier’s whimsy and Mies van der Rohe’s control.”

from the online magazine Maniera!

I only include this quote to show how the names of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe can be used to say pretty much anything about anyone, and drag them back towards these two as if they are some points of reference universally, instead of just in our minds. I don’t understand why this has to be, or what problem this solves. If Lampens encountered Fehr’s Norwegian Pavilion and something suddenly made sense to him, then that’s where we need to start. Everything else is a discussion about Fehr for some other time.

Lampens developed his own personal style of raw concrete and monolithic buildings resembling fortresses or bunkers that blend in their context and natural landscape.

The nearby coastlines of Belgium, France and The Netherlands are littered with WWII bunkers that are indeed massive, monolithic, mute, protective and made of concrete, as fortifications tend to be. These next three photographs by Jonathan Andrew, of some in France, convey the architectonic dimension of these structures.

“For Lampens, these constructions on the Atlantic coast constituted the most beautiful examples of brutalism. Though not directly associated with brutalism, the architecture of Juliaan Lampens stands as a significant variant of this style: materially in his use of raw concrete, and formally in his deployment of the bunker typology. For some time he experimented with raw concrete in order to develop his style of bunker-like exteriors combined with open vistas and sculptural motifs.”

from the online magazine Maniera!

However, if fortresses and bunkers blend in with their landscape it is because at the time they were camouflaged to do so. In the 2013 interview Laampens said he had seen these structures disguised as houses during the war, and then revealed later when the bricks were reused post-war. Let’s keep it real. Bunkers as we know them do not have a harmonious connection between the interior and exterior and they do not blend in with the landscape. It’s said Lampens liked the materiality of concrete, but … is this a word he would have used? Does materiality mean anything more than a material’s physical qualities (but mostly looks) and what’s possible with it? The 2002 House Velghe–Verlinden is not world’s apart from his own house from 1960 and three other of his most well-known houses in-between.

Laampens was a Brutalist.

Lampens’ own house of 1960 has no audacity of shape on the outside, and there’s little sense of concrete on the inside. In the first image below, the wall with the bookshelves is concrete on the outside and lined with timber on this inside. This is not something we associate with Brutalism, or even Modernism where the conceit of having inside and outside space “flow into one another” means no such distinction is drawn. It is true that Lampens’ houses have large areas of glazing but it is rare to have an intermediate space such as a terrace or covered porch. I expect this is because In Belgium (as in the UK) the weather is such that many a garden is best appreciated from indoors.

But Lampens did produce some buildings that resonate with the popular understanding of Brutalism as aggressive and audacious shape-making and it’s these buildings that, more often than not, have concrete as a strong presence inside and fit the current understanding of Brutalism.

Some people won’t see the wood for the concrete but much of Lampens’ work makes strong use of timber and would not be called Brutalist by any definition. Loft Lauwens (circa 1974) is a good example. It’s only publication is in a Japanese magazine, perhaps because the Japanese are less preoccupied with what’s concrete and what’s not. Loft Lauwens is a house built inside an industrial shed has an exposed truss amongst much timber. The effect is neither industrial nor organic. Lampens was quoted as saying he prefers timber for the parts of buildings people touch but the stair handrail is metal. [I’d also said you won’t see any paint in a Lampens building but here you do on both walls and handrail.]

The 1966 House Diane Lampens is never mentioned as representative of Lampens’ sensitivity to all materials. The problem with calling Lampens a Brutalist is that we can’t accept his use of brick, or timber, or anything other than concrete. This is a problem with us, our insistence on classifications, and only acknowledging content that fits them.

The public library in Eke has a diminished internet presence. It appears disused – I’m speculating because of a universal access problem. The building is also not well represented on the internet, and this is almost certainly due to the adjacent building destroying what seems to have been an important design consideration. The concrete block walls no doubt reduced costs in this small library and explains why off-form concrete is used only for the architectural event of the street frontage. This necessitated a change of materials at the corner and the design sketch shows Laampens was aware of this. The concrete block was to have its revenge. I don’t know what the truth is. The adjacent land may have been municipal property when the library was commissioned.

The 1966 chapel is another building that’s an important part of the Lampens as Brutalist narrative but we’ll probably see more historic photographs being used to maintain this narrative. Recent photos show the concrete roof should have had its materiality sustained by a bit more material. Bunkers still litter coastlines for a reason. The yellow supports are thoughtfully designed and positioned as if they’re going to be around for quite some time. That roof’s not going to be made good without major pain.

He experimented with raw concrete in order to develop his style of bunker-like exteriors combined with open vistas and sculptural motifs.

This quote I’ve just included so I can talk more about bunkers, enclosure and what goes on inside. The first image below is Lampens’ entry for a 1957 competition The Modern Ardennes House. It has an shell envelope enclosing some living functions independent of it. Lampen’s 1960 house has a concrete on steel frame envelope enclosing some living functions clustered around a central core. The layout of the 1966 chapel is not that different.

This idea of separating enclosure and habitation was in the air at the time, reappearing again in 1965 by François Dallegret’s 1965 illustrations for Reyner Banham’s article “A Home is Not a House“.

The 1967 Vandenhaute-Kiebooms House has an enclosure of concrete on glass and the most independent of layouts yet. The 1968 House Diane Lampens is tucked into a corner of a spiral wall with only one side open and the internal walls separating the living functions do not confuse this separation.

An earlier iteration of 1974 Van Wassenhove House is configured the same way with the emphasis on a protecting wall enclosing a conceptually independent interior configuration. It’s basically what any house is – an enclosure that can be lived in. The layout of the Van Wassenhove House as-built is no different. However, the orientation is. The unbuilt plan has the bedroom and study facing south and the living/dining-kitchen facing but most likely with borrowed light from the south. The built layout has the living area facing east while the bedroom and bathroom are lit from the west, with borrowed light to the living area. This is made possible of course, by the bedroom and bathroom walls not being full height.

This is something we’ve seen coming in the 1967 Vandenhaute-Kiebooms House.


These next photographs show the east-west change in the daylighting. I suspect those 45° walls in the roof section above function as reflectors as well as spatial transitions.

These next photographs of the least photographed corners of this house show just how much of that daylight there is.

Those next images taken at dusk also show the house as a lived-in thing. You won’t see many staged photographs of Lampens’ houses upon their completion and this is because of his disinterest in having photographs of them published.

When he died, the owner Albert Wassenhove, gifted his house to the University of Ghent who in turn gave it on a long-term loan to the museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Deurle. The house was renovated in 2015 thanks to the support of Philippe and Miene Gillion, and it is now available for residencies and short stays. These are two photographs are from the museum website.

https://www.museumdd.be/en/kortverblijf/

• • • 

JULIAAN LAMPENS: LIST OF PROJECTS
1945Small Family house, Nazareth, East FlandersThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.56.43-PM.png
1948Two-Family House Knudde, Nazareth, East Flanders
1950Single-family houseThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.54.28-PM.png
Single-family houseThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.58.43-PM.png
Three terraced housesThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.56.53-PM.png
1951Van Hove Clothing Shop, Nazareth, East Flanders
1953Doctor’s House Vermaerke, Nazareth, East Flanders
1957National Housing Institute: The Modern Ardennes House (special mention for originality)
1958House Cooreman, De Pinte
1959Thirty-nine small land-ownership houses, De Pinte
1960The European Home Competition, Preliminary design for an apartment building (third place)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.22.56-PM.png
National Architecture Competition: Sports Centre at the Watersportbaan, Ghent This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-17-at-4.23.49-PM.png
Lampens House, Van Hove, Nazareth, East Flanders
1961International architecture competition: Euratom European Institute for Transuranium Elements, Karlsruhe
1962House Delbeke, KortrijkThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.50.37-PM.png
1964International architecture competition: Madrid Opera House, MadridThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-11.00.49-AM.png
1966The Chapel of Our Blessed Lady of Kerselare, Edelare, Belgium
House Dhondt, Sax, OosterzeleThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.52.17-PM.png
1967Vandenhaute-Kiebooms House, Zingem, Belgium
House Vierstraete, Gand This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.53.31-PM.png
1968House Diane Laampens, Gavere, Belgium
House Claus, MaarkedalThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.56.05-PM.png
Sint-Kruis~Male Church, Bruges This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.56.13-PM.png
House Claus, Etikove, MaarkedalThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-8.39.48-AM-1024x682.png
1969House De Vos-Smesman, Eke (Nazareth)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.01.58-AM-828x1024.png
House Pijpaert with butcher’s, Nazareth
Residenze estive Sint-André, KoksijdeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.13.35-AM-684x1024.png
Apartments, Oostduinkerke
1970Eke Public Library, Eke, Belgium
House Jozef Vandenhaute, ZingemThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-7.05.52-PM.png
1971Country House Claus, MaarkedalThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-7.06.20-PM.png
1972National architecture competition: University Institute Antwerpen (Wilrijk)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-11.00.24-AM.png
Reception area for tourism office, BlankenbergeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-11.00.34-AM.png
1973House Derwael–Thienpont, Gavere, BelgiumThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1-1024x696.jpeg
House Jozef Claus (Zero) with Factory, Eke (Nazareth)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-7.10.06-PM.png
House Bauters, MaarkedalThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-7.10.14-PM.png
Extension to Houser Vanhove–Volkaert, Eke (Nazareth)
1974Van Wassenhove House, Laethem-Saint-Martin (near Ghent), Belgium
1975House Libeert, KomenThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.25.48-PM.png
National architecture competition: City Hall and Administrative Centre, LokerenThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.38.48-AM.png
1976House/Atelier Wallaert, Wannegem–Lede This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.39.04-AM.png
House VandenHaute-Vereecken A, De PinteThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.39.13-AM.png
Studio and house for the painter Wallaert, Wannegem-LedeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.25.58-PM.png
1977International architecture competition: Pahlavi National Library Project, Tehran, IranThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.26.06-PM.png
1978House De Meyere–Dhondt, Merelbeke This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.39.27-AM.png
1978House Merckaert, GeraardsdbergenThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.26.20-PM.png
Loft Lauwers (a.k.a. House in Lauwers Hangar), Nazareth  
National Boerenkrijg Museum (a collaboration with Jo Van Den Berghe) This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.04.34-AM-828x1024.png
1981Architecture competition: Sint-Lucas Secondary Art School, Ghent
1983International Architecture competition: Social housing for Stawion, Amsterdam This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.26.49-PM.png
1988House De La Ruelle–Van Moffaert, Sint-Martens-Latem, BelgiumThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.00.43-AM-768x1024.png
1990House Wouter/Dierick Lampens. SemmerzakeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-9.06.27-AM.png
1992House Dieter/Hartmann Lampens, SemmerzakeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-18-at-6.46.41-PM.png
1997International architecture competition: Art & Music Centre,, Javäskylä (Finaland) This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.50.51-AM.png
2002House VelgheVerlinden Deinze, Belguim
2002House Vandenhaute-Van Eylen, Leuven (collaboration with Luc De Vos)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.52.04-AM.png
2012House Russo, Uccle (collaboration with Luc De Vos)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.52.14-AM.png
Monument E17, Nazareth (collaboration with Luc De Vos)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-08-19-at-8.52.25-AM.png

• • • 

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Stock Market

The life of composer, cellist, and conductor Franz Ignaz Danzi (1763–1826) overlaps those of Wofgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert. Mozart died in 1791 aged 35, Danzi in 1826 at 63, Beethoven in 1827 at 57 and Schubert in 1828 at 31. Danzi and Beethoven’s lives overlapped for all but seven years at the beginning of Danzi’s and one year at the end of Beethoven’s. Mozart was seven when Danzi was born and Danzi was twenty eight when Mozart died. Schubert was born when Danzi was 34 but outlived him by only two years, Beethoven by only one.

Mozart’s genius is undisputed today whether it’s his precocity, inventiveness, breadth of output, quantity, quality or any other metric we can think of. There’s nothing the music of Mozart can’t be used to illustrate. His current reputation may well be as huge as it was when he was alive but there was a low point immediately after his death.

I can’t imagine anything like that happening now. It’s impossible for anyone to be regarded as “too creative” or “overly imaginative”. How would we know? And who would say it?

Not everyone in the late 18th century was a fan but most would’ve agreed Beethoven was a music colossus. Beethoven’s reputation has only grown since his death. The popular image of Beethoven is of a temperamental genius artist producing grand masterworks and by all accounts he was that. It’s just odd that this is the only picture of him we have. It’s also misleading for it leads us to believe masterworks are produced only by temperamental geniuses. One logical fallacy breeds another and leads to the belief that temperamental geniuses can only produce masterworks. Ultimately, we’re left with temperamental genius as meme but let’s not talk about architecture just yet.

Fame in one’s own lifetime is the result of delivering what the era demands. The era creates and then rewards its new heroes. Posthumous fame relies on how well the artistic product reflects our projections back at us. There’s no live feedback for dead artists but, whether it be music, painting or something else, there’s still a dynamic process between the audience and the art. We forget about things we once liked as we find new things to see and reputations are updated and refreshed accordingly. It’s not the work that keeps giving but the people who keep extracting. Of course, this is only possible if the original content permits it – is sufficiently “reflective” – and if it happens it’s more by accident than design. Art is a slow and inefficient machine for generating meanings. It’s easier and quicker to apply new readings to things that already exist, the more widely studied, analyzed and written about the better.

All these new readings aren’t going to create themselves. The act of curating puts things in the same cage in the hope something will happen.

At the same time we have new things being said about old things, possibly responding to an insufficiency of new things about which anything can be said. [c.f. Architectural Assimilation]

[c.f. The House That Came to Nothing]

Jonathan Miller’s mafioso staging of Verdi’s Rigoletto set the action in 1950s New York and premiered at English National Opera in 1982. “Nineteenth-century composers were comparatively haphazard in their choice of historical period, and putting the action in the distant past was one way of creating an exotic atmosphere. The future may be just as effective even if it happens to be one with which the composer was unacquainted”. Publicity for the early 1990s revival never failed to note the Armani wardrobe. Posters featured a mock newspaper with the screaming headline BODY FOUND IN BAG! Cute.

Restaging opera classics in a different time period was unheard of in 1982 but is standard practice now. Not only do we accept it, we’ve come to expect it.


If an artist’s recognition in their own lifetime depends on them delivering what the era demands, and if posthumous fame relies on the product being capable of letting people read into it whatever the era demands, then the conditions for aesthetic churn are established.

My only knowledge of Mozart’s Don Giovanni [1787] was the 1984 movie Amadaus so I found and watched a recent-ish production on YouTube and can see what those contemporary critics meant. Who knows? Come 2050 we might see Don Giovanni revived as a tale of predatory sex and toxic employer-employee relations set in 1990s Hollywood.


But are we really the heirs of modernism and postmodernism? Perhaps. If on the one hand we have artists eager to capture the zeitgeist and on the other we have journalists shaping the zeitgeist for them to capture, then either nobody’s driving this bus or everyone is.

Shaped by the same zeitgeist, some of Schubert’s writing might make you think for a moment you were listening to something Beethoven wrote but there were important differences at the time and still are. Today, Beethoven is popularly remembered more for his symphonies and Schubert more for his songs and chamber works. It’s grossly unfair to both but has some justification.

Unlike Beethoven, there’s no popular image of Schubert. If there were, it’d be that of tortured artist but even that’d be inaccurate for though he was tortured it wasn’t by art. Schubert wrote powerful yet simple music that to many encapsulates the essence of human emotion. He was also the person who said “Every night when I go to bed, I hope that I may never wake again, and every morning renews my grief.” This is dark. I don’t know of his other demons but one of them was drink. In the evenings he drank and when he did he was the worst kind of drunk. His fiercely loyal, intensely admiring and long-suffering friends would carry him home and put him to bed and, in the morning, Schubert would wake and write some more of the most sublime music ever written. “I compose every morning, and when one piece is done I begin another.”

I’ve always admired album cover art. If you thought this album contained classical music that was sweet and satisfying but with an occasional welcome tartness then you’d be right.

But what of Franz Danzi? Mozart was already nine and composing when Danzi was born. It’s mentioned that the 25-year old Mozart praised Danzi’s father’s cello playing at the 1781 premiere of his (12th!) opera Idomeneo at Munich’s Residenz Theatre.

I didn’t understand how a cello could be singled out for praise in such an ensemble affair as opera. YouTube offered up Idomeneo performed in 2006 at the Salzburg Festival. I don’t remember any standout cello moments. Idomeneo featured again at last year’s Salzburg Festival, this time directed by Peter Sellars.


It turns out Danzi was inspired by Mozart, and it just so happened that Beethoven, and later, Schubert were there too. It’s all too easy for us to feel sorry for Danzi being a composer at the same time as these three who weren’t just active in the same field but unusually gifted and prolific and to varying degrees fêted as well. Beethoven’s name was linked with grand notions of the human spirit and soul, while Schubert’s name was linked with delicate expressions at the other end of the spectrum of human experience. With both the extreme positions covered and Mozart posthumously occupying the entire middle ground, what was a composer to do? Why even bother? It wasn’t as horrible as we think but this says more about us and how we think than it does about Danzi.

If Danzi had lived his life cursing his bad luck to be alive and a composer at the same time as these others then he would’ve been incapable of doing anything. Instead, he had a full career as a composer and conductor, was an accomplished cellist, and produced some extremely decent music. It’s undeniably accomplished, very pleasant and, at least to me, all the better for not being by Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert. We can listen to it with an open mind and appreciate it for what it is, untroubled by comparisons.


I’m not going to suggest Franz Danzi is some kind of musical misfit. He didn’t push any boundaries but pushing boundaries wasn’t yet mandatory. Danzi was more than competent in all the established ways of his time. If his Piano Concerto in E-flat major sounds to us like some Beethoveny kind of Mozart that’s a problem with us not him. Moreover, we can’t project our imagined unhappinesses onto him. If he didn’t compare himself with Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert then nor should we. If the relationship between artistry and fame is constructed to begin with and continually reconstructed thereafter then it throws the whole proposition into doubt.

[Cite]


How To Leave a Company

There’s no point talking about the many reasons one might want to leave a company. They’ll all fall into one of the three groups of 1) Overworked, 2) Underpaid and 3) Underappreciated.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Your Lao Tzu moment is the moment you realise you’re all three. Nobody will notice anything but you’ll feel the change immediately. Just as designers of buildings must first be capable of imagining how a building can be before they get busy working to realise it, being able to imagine a better career for yourself is no different and, once you’ve done it, suddenly the most important thing you have to do is get your CV out there and look for the position you feel you deserve. You’ve already decided that continuing where you are is no longer tenable. Once you accept that first interview request then it is no longer possible to continue where you are. You’ve initiated the exit sequence and, in your mind, have already moved on. This is the most important part of the process. Other parts still have to be dealt with though. Here’s how it goes.

1. THE GROUNDWORK

1.1  Find another job.
1.2  Accept their offer.
1.3  Sign the contract.

2. BREAKING THE NEWS TO YOUR BOSS

2.1  Prepare your resignation letter. Address it to HR. You only need to write that you’ve accepted another position and that you intend to discuss with HR when your final day will be, taking into account your leave balance, etc. Place letter in an envelope.
2.2  The next day, choose a time when your boss is at their desk and slightly busy. Mid–morning is always good. Go up and say:
2.2.1 “You can take your job and shove it.”
2.2.1.1 “Sideways”.
2.3  Or, you could just say something like “I wanted to tell you I’ve accepted another position.” It actually doesn’t matter what you say. They’ll get the message. Give your boss your resignation letter and say “This is just a letter for HR. ” There’s no need to feel bad, apologise or say anything stupid like offer to leave only when it suits them, etc.
2.3  Nevertheless, it is an awkward moment. Boss is thinking “Shit, now I have to find someone else to do the work.” but will probably say either of the following.
2.3.1  “I’m sorry to hear that. Where to?” This is just small talk – go with it.
2.3.2  “I’m a bit busy right now. We must have a coffee and a chat soon.” Just say “Sure”. You could remind them there’s nothing to discuss as you’ve already signed the contract, but don’t bother – the chat/coffee won’t happen.

3. WORKING ONE’S NOTICE

3.1  The news will travel around the company in seconds. People will contrive to meet you in elevators, corridors and kitchens to find out more. They’ll earnestly give you their phone numbers, saying you must keep in touch. Don’t worry. They won’t. You won’t.
3.2 There may have been quite a while between your Lao Tsu moment and your actual resignation. This is good. It means you probably have accumulated paid leave that will be deducted and could make your notice period as short as one week. If your company wants you to stay for around longer for handover purposes, they can buy that leave back from you. This will depend upon your contract and the employment law in your country of work.
3.3  In any case, you should tell all the clients you’ve enjoyed working with that you’ve found another position but you should do this out of courtesy. They may ask why but don’t say anything negative about the company you’re leaving as they still have to work with them. Instead, be positive about your expectations of working for your new company. This is a time to be genuine. Don’t overdo it. Your clients will draw their own conclusions.
3.3  Do the handover thing as best you can. Email your other clients and tell them who they’ll be needing to contact, etc. in the future. You may have to take your successor to client meetings. Keep it professional. 

4.     THE EXIT INTERVIEW

4.1  This is an interview, usually conducted by someone from HR, where they try to find out why you’re leaving. It’s supposed to be so they can make improvements to the company.
4.1.1 You’ll have your own reasons for leaving but there’s no need to say too much. The reasons you give don’t have to be the main ones or even the true ones. People who care about the work (as distinct from the job) are likely to be overly honest here.
4.2 Try to keep the conversation general. Don’t let it go on for too long – there’s nothing in this for you
4.3  Remember: If exit interviews really existed for the purpose of making the company more attractive to its employees, then you would never have thought of leaving in the first place. Many companies want you to work for them as long as possible while paying you as little as possible. If anything gets improved, it will be their techniques for doing that, nothing else.

5. THE COUNTDOWN

5.1  In your last week, clear out your inbox and clear out your desk. Leave your favourite coffee mug in the kitchen. Delete any personal stuff on your computer. Overwrite your computer’s hard drive with zeroes if you know how. Say a silent goodbye to projects you once cared about. Leave all project data on the server.
5.2  On your last afternoon, HR will ask you to return company property such as access cards and to settle any unfinished business. While you’re there, ask when your last pay will be deposited.

6. YOUR LAST DAY

6.1 Sometime between 3pm and 4pm you may notice people gathering around your desk. Ignore them until you can’t anymore for it means that, unbeknown to you, over the past week, a brown envelope has been passed around from desk to desk inviting your colleagues to contribute towards a leaving gift accompanied by an overly large card signed by all and to which some people may even have added a message along the lines of “Sorry to see you go!” or “Good luck! The gathering will be brought to order and words of thanks will be said by whichever senior member of staff volunteered. You will respond in kind. Keep it short and give it a definite ending so people will know when to applaud and go back to their desks.
6.2  Shortly before 5pm, go around the office and say goodbye to everyone. Your boss will probably have made some important appointment and won’t be there to see you go. Perfect. Make sure you have something already planned for that evening. Otherwise, there may be …

7   THE LEAVING EVENT

7.1  Every company has their own way of doing this but, if there is one, enjoy it as if you’re watching a movie with yourself in it. Remember all the leaving events you’ve been to. Remember how little you really wanted to be at those. Nothing meaningful will be said, so be happy. The only sad bit is thinking how little you will miss any of it. This will pass. Move on.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

• • • 

So far I’ve resigned from three* companies and been made redundant from three*, the most recent being a GFC-related redundancy in 2009, three months after I arrived in Dubai. This post began life in 2013 as email advice to a friend contemplating leaving his first company. He recently sent it back to me, returning the favour.

* 26 June 2020: four : three

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Career Case Study #10: Yo Shimada

The name’s pronounced  Shimada [嶋田 優] despite “Yu” being more usual. Mr. Shimada also bucks convention by not having had a conventional architectural education. I don’t think we can hold this against him. Frank Lloyd Wright never had one. Wright’s thirty or so “bootleg” houses completed while moonlighting in Sullivan’s office prove he thought he could do the same or better. Le Corbusier also never graduated. He learned the art of enamelling and engraving watches at the La Chaux-de-Fonds Arts Décoratifs and it was his mentor L’Eplattenier (whom LC was to later refer to as his only teacher) who made the young Charles-Edouard aware of things such as painting and architecture, ultimately leading him to conclude that designing luxury houses was a better proposition than engraving and enamelling luxury watches. It’s too early to tell if Yo Shimada will be ever considered alongside Wright and Le Corbusier but lack of an architectural education is no handicap. Shimada’s completed more than thirty houses since 2000 so something’s clearly going on.

Shimada CV.jpg

Here’s the timeline so far. The yellow indicates things that could be taken to be an architectural education although these days most anything counts.

YS CV copy

Shimada designed a house and, when it was completed, was asked to design two more. It appers as a natural and gradual discovery of enjoying creating these things called buildings and is why I first thought Yo Shimada would be Architecture Misfit #31.

2012: House in Rokko

We already know this house. [c.f. The Shed Is Not Trying To Be Beautiful, Advance of the Sheds] Designing a house as a horizontal platform on vertical supports never hurt the career of any architect, Japanese or not.

2012: House in Itami

2013: The Blend Inn

2013: House in Ishikiri

2012–2014 was a busy period with at least four projects on the go and the beginning of a recognition that would turn into fame. 2013 was the year his career took off. Already with House in Kawanishi there’s some strange things happening with separated voids but it’s countered by insights on the intelligence of vernacular architecture.

An essay in the book titled Making a Connection with Anonymouse Intelligence describes coincidental similarities between themes already evident in House in Rokko and an Australian vernacular house typology known as The Queenslander.

2016: House in Hamilton

House in Hamilton (Queensland, Australia) was the conscious fusion of the two and is where it starts getting weird. People begin to say things like “The experimental home has a ‘treehouse-like playfulness’, featuring an origami ceiling.”

It seems to be the start of Shimada’s explorations into utilizing the spaces above and below staircases. I’ll come back to this later.

House in Rokko is the house by which Shimada wants to be marketed. It features on the cover of the only book about him, along with this photograph but this could just be the publisher with an eye on sales.

Japanese “next-generation” architects are under intense pressure to design precious houses, write profound text, and endlessly promote them not only in the Japanese press but all media everywhere. There’s little evidence Yo Shimada started out to concoct a media presence. Houses appear on ArchDaily soon after completion but that’s to be expected these days. The website of TATO Architects / Yo Shimada is simple and modern in having next to no commentary. I don’t look for artful explanations or hype but sometimes the history and context of a project is best communicated by words and, if they’re not there, I just assume I’m not the targeted audience. Visitors are encouraged to evaluate these buildings on the basis of photographs and everything is beautifully photographed. Many interior photographs feature people and the paraphenalia of daily life but, after decades of photos of Japanese houses with both contrivedly absent, this may just be a different type of contrivance for the audience of public opinion.