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Why and Wires Not

We were excited this week to learn that Unesco have granted World Heritage status to seventeen buildings designed by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. This re-opened a long standing, but never concluding, debate about which of Le Corbusier’s sites is our favourite. Unite d’habitation. Upturned concrete boat housing a gym, check, ushering in modern apartment living with onsite services, check, on stilts! Villa Savoy? Of course, but the roof leaks. A French shrug and get on with it. The whole footprint of the house determined by the turning circle of the clients car. It can’t get any better than that. But wait. one word Ronchamp. It has to be. Is that roof really concrete? So ethereal a building constructed in such an unsightly and democratic building material. From such humble beginnings such floating beauty.

Our store also sits in the heart of a World Heritage site, Saltaire, although the lines are more Italian Piazza than Modernist Brutalism. The Yorkshire store, hewn from the local quarries not measured, mixed and poured, has been cleaned of its coal smoke cloaking and now glows golden as the sun dips towards the horizon. To sit and eat a bowl of spaghetti coated with nothing heavier than a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of Anglesey Sea Salt and to watch the colours change is a joy. A simple joy of which Corbusier would have approved, albeit outside his Cabanon overlooking the deep blue of the Mediterranean. The sentiment is the same. Enjoy your surroundings. Improve them is you can.

Take a look underneath a desk in most offices and. apart from a pair of legs, you’ll find a pile of spaghetti. Not the Italian pasta but a tangled mess of cables and wires, often covered in thick dust, that are necessary for the paraphernalia of a modern commercial environment.

In the home, under a computer or behind a television, the picture’s much the same. Aerial leads and DVD cables twist together with speaker wires, telephone flexes and all the “spaghetti” needed to power up a normal living room. Even those of us with “WIFI” wireless set-ups, still need power cables as well as chargers for mobile phones, cameras, I Pods, IPads and the like. With all the added gadgetry of satellite and cable boxes, computer games stations and music systems, let alone a simple table lamp to help you see what you’re doing, the “spaghetti” sometimes seems to be  taking over the home. Add in a fan or air cooler, a humidifier or air purifier, an electric clock, a radio or even a foot spa and you’re well and truly snookered!

The trouble is that we want everything to look neat and orderly with concealed wiring yet easy access if any change is required. There are a host of gizmos that will help our cable management ranging from discreet holes or flaps in the back of cabinets to all manner of  hooks, clips and tubes that look the vertebrae of snakes,  Many of them are about as effective as a bulldog clip or an old fashioned clothes peg but whilst they tidy up the “spaghetti” none get rid of the problem  – all those wires.

One of the problems is that rooms often don’t have enough plug sockets. Even when there are enough, they’re invariably in the wrong place. You then need an extension cable with a four way adaptor and that means yet another cable and you run the risk of tripping over the wires as well.

Homes have far more appliances than ever before and the way we use rooms has also changed. Multi-functional space, especially in quite small homes, often replaces more prescriptive room definitions (dining, sitting, study etc.). Fitting extra plug sockets is a veritable nightmare. First of all there’s the disruption and mess caused by breaking into and then chasing out walls. Then the new wiring needs to be connected into the circuits, which may require alterations to the main fuse board. Then comes re-plastering and redecorating and a wall can end up looking so war torn that the whole room requires a matching face-lift.

There are, however, alternatives. In 1955, Le Corbusier showed that exposing wiring (and pipes for that matter) in the Heidi Weber Pavillion could be used as a decorative feature, especially when they were highlighted in contrasting colours. Instead of trying to hide your wires, embrace them, draw inspiration from them and draw attention to them. Let the orange cables stand out against a grey walls and complement the exposed brickwork. It’s also a lot easier to redeploy if you ever need to change the room layout. So, don’t be a spaghetti maker, go out and flaunt your wires!