This week I read a short essay by Jane Rendell, called ‘doing it, (un)doing it, (over)doing it yourself’ which for the following reasons I believe follows on quite nicely from my summary of last week’s blog.
Jane Rendell is a writer, art critic and architectural historian, with several published books and short essays to her name. She is a Professor at the Bartlett in London and also Vice Dean of research to accompany this role.
What interests me about Rendell however, taking into account my brief research and study of this particular text, is that I find evidence of an almost eureka moment, albeit a drawn out extended one, in which Rendell undergoes transformation into the successful writer she is today.
In ‘Doing it’ as the text commences, Jane describes very briefly, what I would call the traditional method of architectural education. The study of a long in depth ‘amazing story’ of the subject, followed by the learning of such principles that would allow an architect to design a building that could stand up and as such be successful in eyes of the brief – ‘minimal fuss and no mess’! At this point she already references being ‘told that architects were important people’; Doubt already settling in?
‘(un)doing it’ she continues, comes about by watching the ‘untrusted few’ – non architects. The chosen example is a visit to Konstantin Melnikov’s house, he as an architect provides a ‘symphony of great architectural geometry’ and his wife had littered the otherwise successful bedroom with ‘ornaments, lace and funny old furniture’ with disregard to Melnikov’s dream concept. Rendell suggests Melnikov is too busy dreaming and building with the other architects to notice such a tragedy.
‘(over)doing’ it, in this case appeared to refer to the realisation Rendell was having by this point, that architects and the profession she had spent years preparing herself for, were in fact not ‘important people’, but just over-doing and over-thinking it!
Rendells outlook on life, post this realisation, took a turn which in my eyes defined her future career. She decided to let her personal life, oppose perhaps, her professional training and celebrate Mrs Melnikovs lifestyle. At the time she was living in a self-described ‘leafy street in Clapham’ a terraced house sharing with several people of similar living style, perhaps as the text suggests, squatting is a more appropriate term, living with the home owner but paying no rent, as none was requested.
Life was relaxed, I would refer to it as bohemian in extreme measure, she describes broken front doors and non-working locks. Perhaps more crucially she discusses a bath, in the roof space (non-converted I may add) in fact with floor joists removed adjacent to converse with friends cooking below, the bath was also it seems in place of a significant structural roof support that made way for this organised chaos. Rendell describes a make shift roof light above the bath shattering on an occasion showering the user below with glass, it was replaced and life went on, perhaps these serious discrepancies in the house indicating quite how far Rendells acceptance of this life has progressed.
Crucially, toward the end of her essay, Rendell writes an in-depth description of ‘walking away’ from this house after two years in favour of a more conventional accommodation; Thus suggesting that maybe order, if not in an architectural quantity, is in fact a healthy and constructive thing to have. It was in this act of walking away and similarly in the act of referencing this exit in her text through such detail, that I believe Rendell enjoys the ‘eureka moment’ I reference and perhaps the defining moment in her career influencing her work and critique of the architectural industry even today!
To borrow a quote from Jane Rendell : “Dreams are lived, lives are dreamt”. Without a hint of sarcasm, I look forward to my personality defining eureka moment wholeheartedly and will be sure to embrace it with open arms.