The Hut, Jordan Awan

Jordan Awan

...and perhaps in the end through a cliff into the sea, something of me.
Samuel Beckett, From An Abandoned Work

Le Corbusier first visited the beaches and cliffs of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France while on holiday with his wife; they continued to vacation there for the next few years. In the 1940s, he met the owner of a seaside restaurant, who happened to own land in Cap Martin that stretched down the Mediterranean coast; Le Corbusier convinced the owner to let him build a small structure on this land. In late 1950 he drew out plans for Le Cabanon and presented them as a birthday present to his wife.

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The first step involves removing a pressure and letting your mind wander during the day hours. In the evening, you have to remember that doing nothing is an acceptable way to spend time. Some nights, you will be presented with a window, appearing sometime after 11PM or so. It will not appear if you are not waiting for it. Waiting does not guarantee an appearance, however.

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Le Cabanon is the smallest building Le Corbusier ever built. It is set back on a steep slope that leads down to cliffs and sea; it is surrounded by eucalyptus and acanthus trees. The exterior of the structure is rough pine. The single main room is 2.26 meters cubed; the entrance is a hallway wide enough for only one person. Beyond a sliding door, the smooth, light wood interior is divided into separate areas for living, sleeping and washing. There is a bed, a bath, a folding table, two whiskey crates that function as seating and storage, and a wash closet. The shower is outdoors. There is no kitchen, because Le Corbusier and his wife took all their meals at the seaside restaurant. It was derided by most critics and colleagues as a sort of lumberjack shed.

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Is the ocean an inherently spiritual place, or is it more subjective? Either way, the concept of it draws us in. Last summer we had our feet in the silvery Atlantic at sunset, and small creatures carried their shells over our toes and deeper into the darkening water, following the tide as it moved out.

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There are three small windows behind wooden shutters. The lack of large windows and close walls creates an intimate, closed-off space; Le Cabanon has been likened to the inside of a seashell and has also been called a daydreaming chamber. One small window faces front to the sea. It frames the inlet of rough water at the foot of the steep sloping cliffs where Le Corbusier drowned while swimming in August, 1965.

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One view of architecture is: a man creating burdens for himself all over the globe. Another is: some animals already live with a house on their back, others do not.

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Among other things, Le Corbusier viewed the hut as a reinvention of himself; he used it to signal a shift in his life and philosophy. No longer did he want to create large industrial concrete developments. In his Cabanon, his work started to change; forms became more organic, and structures more sculptural. He spent much time alone inside the hut with his collection of shells and beach objects. Gone was the Brutalist, the urban modernist in factory-made black suit and bow tie; he appeared instead for press photographers shirtless in his swim trunks, holding his hands up on the beach, or near Cabanon, emerging from the trees, nearly nude.

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One of the later steps involves distinguishing invisible forces, the kind that are so large they can't be noticed. Does it become a matter of wrestling the otherworldly, of using a rock as a pillow? Or perhaps further proof that peace is not in your nature. It is possible to understand a book less each successive time you read it.