For my mother …
Le Corbusier’s working hours were implacably regular. During my four years at the atelier, he worked at the rue de Sévres from two in the afternoon to around seven. The hour of 2:00 P.M., I soon learned, was holy. If you were a minute late you risked a reprimand. At first Corbu arrived either by subway (a convenient, direct metro line connected his Michel-Ange- Molitor station with the atelier’s Sévres-Babylone) or by taxi. Later on he started driving his old pistachio-green Simca Fiat convertible. In his last years it would be the taxi again. The process of returning home revealed quite a lot about Le Corbusier’s character. If the work went well, if he enjoyed his own sketching and was sure of what he intended to do, then he forgot about the hour and might be home late for dinner. But if things did not go too well, if he felt uncertain of his ideas and unhappy with his drawings, then Corbu became jittery. He would fumble with his wristwatch – a small, oddly feminine contraption, far too small for his big paw – and finally say, grudgingly, “C’est difficile, l’architecture,” toss the pencil or charcoal stub on the drawing, and slink out, as if ashamed to abandon the project and me — and us — in a predicament.
During these early August days, I learned quite a bit about Le Corbusier’s daily routine. His schedule was rigidly organized. I remember how touched I was by his Boy Scout earnestness: at 6 A.M., gymnastics and . . . painting, a kind of fine-arts calisthenics; at 8 A.M., breakfast. Then Le Corbusier entered into probably the most creative part of his day. He worked on the architectural and urbanistic sketches to be transmitted to us in the afternoon. Outlines of his written work would also be formulated then, along with some larger parts of the writings. Spiritually nourished by the preceding hours of physical and visual gymnastics, the hours of painting, he would use the main morning time for his most inspired conceptualization. A marvelous phenomenon indeed, this creative routine, implemented with his native Swiss regularity, harnessing and channeling what is most elusive. Corbu himself acknowledged the importance of this regimen. “If the generations come”, he wrote, “attach any importance to my work as an architect, it is to these unknown labors that one as to attribute its deeper meaning.” It is wrong to assume, I believe, as [others] have suggested, that Le Corbusier was devoting this time to the conceptualization of shapes to be applied directly in his architecture; rather, it was for him a period of concentration during which his imagination, catalyzed by the activity of painting, could probe most deeply into his subconscious.
Get up at 7:30 in the morning — feed cats, drive daughter to school, read the NY Times and drink chocolate milk. Do chores and tasks and try to get time to make art. Make art. Take naps. Before each 5 minute nap I read a page or two. Right now I’m reading Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day. Make art. Go to sleep at 3:00 in the morning.
||Rose and took a short walk.
||Worked in his study; he considered this his best working time.
||Went to drawing-room and read his letters, followed by reading aloud of family letters.
12 or 12:15 p.m.
|Returned to study, which period he considered the end of his working day.
||Walk, starting with visit to greenhouse, then round the sandwalk, the number of times depending on his health, usually alone or with a dog.
||Lunch with whole family, which was his main meal of the day. After lunch read The Times and answered his letters.
||Rested in his bedroom on the sofa and smoked a cigarette, listened to a novel or other light literature read by ED [Emma Darwin, his wife].
||Walked, usually round sandwalk, sometimes farther afield and sometimes in company.
||Worked in study, clearing up matters of the day.
||Rested again in bedroom with ED reading aloud.
||Light high tea while the family dined. In late years never stayed in the dining room with the men, but retired to the drawing-room with the ladies. If no guests were present, he played two games of backgammon with ED, usually followed by reading to himself, then ED played the piano, followed by reading aloud.
||Left the drawing-room and usually in bed by 10:30, but slept badly.
Even when guests were present, half an hour of conversation at a time was all that he could stand, because it exhausted him.
Morning routine: I usually get up around 7. I make oatmeal in my rice cooker. Then I take an hourlong walk: outside if the weather’s good; on my treadmill if it’s cold. Then I shower, shave and go to the first of three movies I see on many weekdays.
Despite all this activity Churchill’s daily routine changed little during these years. He awoke about 7:30 a.m. and remained in bed for a substantial breakfast and reading of mail and all the national newspapers. For the next couple of hours, still in bed, he worked, dictating to his secretaries.
At 11:00 a.m., he arose, bathed, and perhaps took a walk around the garden, and took a weak whisky and soda to his study.
At 1:00 p.m. he joined guests and family for a three-course lunch. Clementine drank claret, Winston champagne, preferable Pol Roger served at a specific temperature, port brandy and cigars. When lunch ended, about 3:30 p.m. he returned to his study to work, or supervised work on his estate, or played cards or backgammon with Clementine.
At 5:00 p.m., after another weak whisky and soda, he went to be for an hour and a half. He said this siesta, a habit gained in Cuba, allowed him to work 1 1/2 days in every 24 hours. At 6:30 p.m. he awoke, bathed again, and dressed for dinner at 8:00 p.m.
Dinner was the focal-point and highlight of Churchill’s day. Table talk, dominated by Churchill, was as important as the meal. Sometimes, depending on the company, drinks and cigars extended the event well past midnight. The guests retired, Churchill returned to his study for another hour or so of work.
His mode of living consisted of daily visits to the British Museum reading-room, where he normally remained from nine in the morning until it closed at seven; this was followed by long hours of work at night, accompanied by ceaseless smoking, which from a luxury had become an indispensable anodyne; this affected his health permanently and he became liable to frequent attacks of a disease of the liver sometimes accompanied by boils and an inflammation of the eyes, which interfered with his work, exhausted and irritated him, and interrupted his never certain means of livelihood. “I am plagued like Job, though not so God-fearing,” he wrote in 1858.