British hedge fund billionaire Crispin Odey has done for chicken coops what Laibach does for popular music. That is to say, take a simple form and do it up in grand dictator style.
Odey’s coop also managed to exceed Marie Antoinette’s fake farm in the questionable timing department. He got a lot of bad press for beginning his $250,000 marble chicken coop in the midst of an economic downturn. An article in the New York Times, A Hedge Fund Highflier Comes Back to Earth, indicates that Odey has had to do some damage control,
Never one to sit still, he is also repositioning his poultry palace, which he said had “morphed into a library.” So what is the deal with the coop anyway?
“For me it’s more of a folly than a chicken house,” he said, referring to the ornamental buildings that adorn some of the grand English estates of past centuries.
He gamely showed photos of the nearly completed structure on his iPhone. “Once I started thinking about what I wanted to have there, it was a Schinkelian temple.” Karl Friedrich Schinkel, he explained, was the architect who worked for the Prussian royal family, “and built almost all of that stuff you come across in Brandenburg and in Berlin.”
Mr. Odey pointed to a relief visible along one wall. “I have the chickens and egg having the age-old fight of who came first,” he smiled. “It’s carved in stone,” and there will be a Latin inscription, “Quis primus venit?”
“Meaning, ‘Who came first?’ ”
So is it a chicken coop and a library? Perhaps Odey is familiar with the poultry housing described in Cato the Elder’s De Agricultura. In this early Roman agriculture manual Cato details a live-in chicken coop that provides housing for a worker who collects the eggs and keeps predators away. Maybe he can read Cato while admiring his hens. Just look out for those peasants with pitchforks . . .