I had the personal pleasure of meeting one of San Diego's most prolific and well-known modernist architects recently, a man named Dick Lareau. He's the original architect on a project that playground is currently working on and I've been eagerly awaiting a chance to meet the man behind the buildings. It didn't hurt that his office was a bastion of mid-century cool, complete with Eames and Saarinen originals and some beautifully hand-crafted water color renderings that ranges from modernist interiors to sculptural, serpentine buildings.
It's always such a pleasure to meet someone and see their private spaces and see the connection between the public buildings they've created. This was certainly the case with Mr. Lareau. Even pulling up to the building that his office remained in, which he built decades ago, it looked like him, right down to the vintage, pristinely kept Mercedes convertible parked out front. I love when reference points match up, when the wood pattern on the ceiling of the office matches the signature facade present, sometimes more subtly than others, on most if not all of the buildings someone touches. While I recognize that it can be a dangerous rut to fall into, there's something truly beautiful about having small signatures that carry over through the course of a career, things that you find yourself constantly attracted to and reinventing in different contexts.
In conversing with Mr. Lareau, I found myself taking mental notes on a few words of wisdom, which I thought may be of interest:
- The hard work is worth it.
- Remember, you must be compensated for your work. This is how the world works and just because you're in a creative discipline does not make it free.
- Your work is your legacy, and will always be your baby.
- Break the rules. It's easier to apologize and figure it out later.
- Try new things and challenge the past logic. It might not be as logical as it seems.
It's amazing to see work that is still just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago when it was first built. It's also amazing to see the price tag difference on these types of projects! I think the thing I most adore about the era of modernist architecture, especially out West, is the sincere optimism of the work and the pioneering spirit of the designers, architects and artists behind it. I think we're at a point where the world needs that sense of optimism again, rather than the cautions of fear-mongering and building ever more secure structures that forget a sense of pleasure or any sense of human-ness. What a delight it was to take a trip back in time this afternoon with a man of legacy and resolute relevance.