Otto Silenus

Professor Silenus—for that was the title by which this extraordinary young man chose to be called—was a “find” of Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde’s. He was not yet famous anywhere, though all who met him carried away deep and diverse impressions of his genius. He had first attracted Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde’s attention with the rejected design for a chewing-gum factory which had been reproduced in a progressive Hungarian quarterly. His only other completed work was the décor for a cinema film of great length and complexity of plot—a complexity rendered the more inextricable by the producer’s austere elimination of all human characters, a fact which had proved fatal to its commercial success. He was staring resignedly in a bed-sitting room in Bloomsbury, despite the untiring efforts of his parents to find him—they were very rich in Hamburg—when he was offered the commission of rebuilding King’s Thursday. “Something clean and square”—he pondered for three days upon the aesthetic implications of these instructions and then began his designs.

“The problem of architecture as I see it,” he told a journalist who had come to report on the progress of his surprising creation of ferro concrete and aluminum, “is the problem of all art—the elimination of the human element from the consideration of form. The only perfect building must be the factory, because that is built to house machines, not men. I do not think it is possible for domestic architecture to be beautiful, but I am doing my best. All ill comes from man,” he said gloomily; “please tell your readers. Man is never beautiful; he is never happy except when he becomes the channel for the distribution of mechanical forces.”

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