The building offers an immersive experience, tracing the rise and fall of Britain as a world power and its survival as a haven of tolerance for the persecuted. Originally it was called the Museum of Immigration but obviously someone on the board has been on a peopling awareness course.
It’s pretty counter-intuitive given the panic about incomers at the moment. The central message that immigration adds to the richness of our nation is underlined by my fee, which is substantial.
TUESDAY. I’m at the Institute of Advanced Iconography for an afternoon of lectures, workshops and smoking breaks. The theme? How To Beat The Economic Crisis With Cheaper, Louder Architecture. No exclamation mark either, a real touch of class.
Even better, not one of the speakers is an architect. They’re all from the music industry and they’re here to offer some top pop marketing advice. It’s a good idea. The worlds of epic space and epic sound do share a common heritage. Both went through Modernism together, and even today may be found in the same part of the Culture/Lifestyle supplements.
But blimey, motivational speakers from the music ‘biz’ are much more interesting than the ones you usually get at an architecture wafflethon. Instead of some middle manager droning on about PFI hospitals you get a tough, sexy indie guru swigging from her vodka and tonic and gossiping about George Michael. Instead of some nutty, whey-faced Austrian professor and his fractal slideshow you get a legendary hip-hop producer with novelty hair and a facial ladygarden.
And they’re all telling us the same thing. Bang it out quickly. Clone. Saturate the market before it gets bored. And, most importantly, TURN IT UP. The world’s a noisy bar. Music and architecture have to shout to be noticed. The secret is something called ‘brickwall limiting’.
If you heavily compress the sound on a CD during mastering you close the gap between average and peak volume. So when it comes on in the noisy bar it’ll be louder than anything else. Except when all the CDs have been brickwalled. Then everything’s just aggressively and uniformly noisy.
This, according to our plenary session MC, is what’s happening in architecture, but not quickly enough. Oh, buildings are being compressed all right: high-density apartment cramming, heavier hotels, value-engineered office lumps. But you have to make them much LOUDER. Other conference tips:
• If you’ve just done some interesting architecture, try to get on The Charlotte Church Show.
• Put the word ‘fusion’ in somewhere; everybody loves it apparently. That and urban. In fact, if you can work in the phrase ‘urban fusion’ over lunch with a features editor and remember to wear an iPod you might swing a two-page spread on your brilliant new glass extension for that terraced house in Catford.
• At your next client presentation, use backing dancers and a light show.
WEDNESDAY. Redesign the London Stock Exchange, giving it more of a ‘rowdy coffee house’ feel. It incorporates a 24-hour Lending Bar. And a health spa with jacuzzis: the South Sea Bubbleteria.
THURSDAY. A mysterious voice announces he’s the new client for my stock exchange do-up. What happened to the old client? A gruff cackle, then: ‘I’ve eaten him...’
FRIDAY. Barratt, the trophy parrot I adopted to boost my status in the world of contemporary design, has moved out. Great news, I never liked him. But a little upsetting, as nobody likes to be dumped for a green campaigner.
Barratt was headhunted by some dickhead with a sustainability blog. One minute he’s in the RIPBA press office squawking platitudes at lazy journalists, the next he’s the toast of the We’re Doomed circuit. He flaps on stage, fixes the audience with his beady stare, hops from one leg to the other and repeats ‘Hey! Let’s conserve Earth’s Precious Resources! Kraark! Or we’ll all be – extinct!’ Then he dozes off for a bit.
SATURDAY. Morning: Post-Rational Modulism. Afternoon: International Quaker Style.
SUNDAY. Yet more industry lay-off in the recliner.