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SAN ROCCO 08. What's wrong with the Primitive Hut? | San Rocco magazine

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SAN ROCCO 08

What's wrong with the Primitive Hut?

Uitgever:SAN ROCCO

  • Paperback
  • Engels
  • 200 pagina's
  • 22 jan. 2014

Let us consider man in his first origin without any other help, without other guide, than the natural instinct of his wants. He wants an abiding place. Near to a gentle stream he perceives a green turf, the growing verdure of which pleases his eye, its tender down invites him, he approaches, and softly extended upon this enameled carpet he thinks of nothing but to enjoy in peace the gifts of nature: nothing he wants, he desires nothing; but presently the Sun’s heat which scorches him, obliges him to seek a shade. He perceives a neighbouring wood, which offers to him the coolness of its shades: he runs to hide himself in its thickets and behold there content. In the mean time a thousand vapours raised by chance meet one another, and gather themselves together; thick clouds obscure the air, a frightful rain throws itself down as a torrent upon this delicious forest. The man badly covered by the shade of these leaves, knows not how to defend himself from this invading moisture that penetrates on every part. A cave presents itself to his view, he slides into it, and finding himself dry applauds his discovery. But new defects make him dislike his abode, he sees himself in darkness, he breathes an unhealthful air; he goes out if it resolved to supply by his industry the inattentions and neglects of nature. The man is willing to make himself an abode which covers but not buries him. Some branches broken down in the forest are the proper materials for his design . . .

This monotonous fable is recounted at the beginning of the first chapter of Laugier’s famous Essai sur l’architecture (1753) and, consequently, at the very beginning of modern architecture. In its sublime lack of inspiration, the fable is impeccable: no antagonists, no encounters, no drama, no plot, no sex, no anecdotes, no noise, no ambiguity, no jokes. There is just primitive man and nature, nothing else. Primitive man is perfectly alone, just like Crusoe on his deserted island. His problems are limited to meteorological conditions: the sun’s heat, rain, humidity. Still, as silly as it may at first seem, this fable is not all that innocent. Some of its curious presuppositions are crucial for the understanding of modernism.

Let us consider man in his first origin without any other help, without other guide, than the natural instinct of his wants. He wants an abiding place. Near to a gentle stream he perceives a green turf, the growing verdure of which pleases his eye, its tender down invites him, he approaches, and softly extended upon this enameled carpet he thinks of nothing but to enjoy in peace the gifts of nature: nothing he wants, he desires nothing; but presently the Sun’s heat which scorches him, obliges him to seek a shade. He perceives a neighbouring wood, which offers to him the coolness of its shades: he runs to hide himself in its thickets and behold there content. In the mean time a thousand vapours raised by chance meet one another, and gather themselves together; thick clouds obscure the air, a frightful rain throws itself down as a torrent upon this delicious forest. The man badly covered by the shade of these leaves, knows not how to defend himself from this invading moisture that penetrates on every part. A cave presents itself to his view, he slides into it, and finding himself dry applauds his discovery. But new defects make him dislike his abode, he sees himself in darkness, he breathes an unhealthful air; he goes out if it resolved to supply by his industry the inattentions and neglects of nature. The man is willing to make himself an abode which covers but not buries him. Some branches broken down in the forest are the proper materials for his design . . .

This monotonous fable is recounted at the beginning of the first chapter of Laugier’s famous Essai sur l’architecture (1753) and, consequently, at the very beginning of modern architecture. In its sublime lack of inspiration, the fable is impeccable: no antagonists, no encounters, no drama, no plot, no sex, no anecdotes, no noise, no ambiguity, no jokes. There is just primitive man and nature, nothing else. Primitive man is perfectly alone, just like Crusoe on his deserted island. His problems are limited to meteorological conditions: the sun’s heat, rain, humidity. Still, as silly as it may at first seem, this fable is not all that innocent. Some of its curious presuppositions are crucial for the understanding of modernism. Indeed, according to Laugier, primitive man has needs but no companions, and he possesses a logic (a pretty utilitarian one) but not a language. The atmosphere is remarkably silent: in the tale, architecture is born in complete isolation, without words, without lies. Consequently, for Laugier, architecture is just a matter of shelter. Functionalism is the logical consequence of these (quite surreal) assumptions. Houses come before temples. And so private architecture is the model for public architecture. Pragmatism comes before ritual. Structure comes before space. The fundamental element of architecture is the pillar, not the wall, and its fundamental device is the section, not the plan. Against all evidence, engineering precedes rhetoric.

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