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Building a House - Reflections

BUILDING A HOUSE - REFLECTIONS.

The omelette au jambon despatched, Paul remained silent.

"Well, my young colleague, you seem to be looking at something outside the real world. Is it hunger that gives you that pensive look? Shall we have another omelette?" "No, thank you. My hunger is quite satisfied. What bothers me is, that I don't half understand all you have been so kindly explaining to me. There are points which I cannot catch; and I am asking myself whether I can be really of any use to you in overlooking the building. It seems to me that I should have much to learn; the little you have taught me is all in confusion in my head, and we haven't even begun the work yet." "Discouraged already ! Come, come ! each day's task can be finished in the day; and a house is not built so fast but that you can add something every day to your store of practical knowledge, without confusion.

"All you learn will find its place in your brain, for the head is a marvellous box; the more you fill it the more it enlarges; and everything classified in the compartment destined to receive it can always be found again. The great thing is to keep one's bureau in good order, and only to place in it objects well studied and sorted.

"But each day you ought to make a complete transcript of the work done, and leave nothing for the morrow. The commission I give you - that is the daily record of all that is brought to the works, and of the employment of the materials - what we call keeping account' is only a ques tion of exactness and care. The important point is not to let your work get beforehand with you. Two hours daily will suffice to take account on the spot. You see that you will still have three or four hours left to attend to the details of the execution, and to take your pleasure." "Did you begin to learn architecture in this way?" "Oh ! by no means. When I left college I was articled to an architect for two years, who set me to copy drawings of buildings, of which I was not told either the age, or the country, or the use; then to lay on tints. During this time, I took lessons in mathe

matics, geometry, and drawings from models. I was then prepared to enter the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where not much is taught, but where they compete to obtain medals and the Grand Prix, if you can. I remained there three years, making five in all. Meantime, I was obliged to get my living, for I had no more than enough to pay for my lodging and to buy clothes. I was obliged, therefore, to get into an office--that is to say, to work for so much an hour at an architect's, who was in large practice. There I used to trace plans and nothing else, except now and then to make some detail drawings. - Heaven knows how ! - for I had never seen the smallest part of a building executed. But my employer was not exacting, and the master builders supplied by their experience what was wanting in these details. Seeing that all this would not put me in a speedy way to master my profession, and being so fortu nate as to have had a few hundred pounds left me, I resolved to travel - to study architecture in actual build ings, and no longer in those shown me on paper. I set myself to observe, to compare, to see practical men at work, to examine buildings that were crumbling to pieces, that I might discover in anima viii the causes of their ruin.

"At the end of five more years I was sufficiently ac quainted with my profession to be able to practise' it. Total - ten years; and I had not built even a dog-kennel. One of my patrons introduced me to an agency for government works, where I saw methods employed which scarcely agreed with the observations I had been able to make during my previous architectural studies. If at any time I allowed myself to make remarks on this discrepancy, I found they were not well received. This circumstance, and the fact that a fine opportunity offered itself for making use of what I had learned, occasioned my stay there to be of no long duration.

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