Charles and Richard - the return match
Ian Martin finds himself in a battle royale for the hearts and minds of Epic Space’s archiblogoverse
PREVIOUSLY A wrestling match between Lord Rogers and the Prince of Wales has ended in a draw, creating a dangerous moral vacuum in epic space. Until a winner is declared, nobody knows whether luxury housing should look like a) a humane 21st-century slaughterhouse, or b) a costume drama starring Helen Mirren in some sort of hat.
MEANWHILE The archiblogoverse is all a-twitter. Tron Pitney, the fragrant but overrated champion of Auto-Modernism, has terminated his fling with architecture critic Darcy Farquear’say. Tron’s been spotted about town with aspiring young graffiti artist Pudsy who, tellingly, doesn’t own a little dog.
LONDON, ENGLAND Buckingham Palace’s croquet lawn is being prepared for a decisive grudge match between the Twin Towers of architectural opinion. The glittering prize is the right to speak for ‘the people’. If Charles is triumphant (and on paper he’s better at croquet) everyone will have to admire rural vernacular architecture and despise suburban uniformity. If Richard wins, we’ll have to admire innovative urban architecture and despise suburban uniformity. It’s that simple.
THE CRITICS What, I wonder, is the collective noun for critics? A conundrum? A peripatesis? A bombast? Of course, they all secretly hope Charles wins. Critics are at their best when they’re ‘oppositional’, hating philistines and conservatives. Shaking their heads, deeply regretting the cultural influence of that lying shit Blair, choking on their own misplaced optimism. Praising the modesty of exquisite little townhouses made of glass and Fairtrade timber and sequestered light, inhabited Monday to Friday by pushy creative types whose brief to the architect was: ‘Anything you like, just make sure it’s wedged firmly into a Montessori catchment area.’
Here to witness the match today: Piers Plowman of the Sunday Opening Times, already moaning about the ghastly disposition of some shrubbery; Lance Fantomime of the Beautiful Minder, who’s dressed like a WW2 aviator and a bit breathless (‘went round and round looking for a spot to land the Tiger Moth’); Andrew Birthpoole of the Detached Gaze; D Farquear’say of the Creative on Sunday with his dachshund Bauhau, and Tom Spoonful of the Digigraph Online. Tom’s not strictly speaking an architecture critic. He’s the Emma Watson correspondent. His job is to escort Emma Watson everywhere, looking for photo opportunities. A croquet match is perfect. ‘Blossoming beauty, classic English Summer backdrop. Digigraph readers love it, especially the dads…’
GAME ON Charles emerges from the Palace in his croquet outfit: lemon cardigan over shirt and tie, white flat cap, summer kilt. Richard’s already waiting impatiently in a ‘smart djellaba’ that captures energy from sunlight and converts it into harmless gas. A murmur swells then subsides as the protagonists take the field. Match referee Mr Jenkins, dressed in the customary post-war schoolboy’s uniform, explains the rules. Today we’re playing Haute Croquet, which incorporates elements of crazy golf and frozen music. The Battle for Architecture is, once again, underway.
Richard goes first, glancing to fine leg and completely missing the hole in the middle of a model Poundbury. Charles pounces – a croquet, followed by a roquet through Little Brasilia. Then, brilliantly, he peels the zeitgeist and squares a pick-up to take the minipeg, cover driving through a miniature porte-cochere to Petite Versailles. Richard swipes diagonally through the scaled-down Diana water feature, hacking a nine below par and accidentally scoring a boggle via a rebored Millennium Dome on the reverse sweep. A very tense bump-off sees Richard slamdunk a cribbage through Robin Hood Gardens but it’s too late. With exquisite grace Charles gives a little bend of the knees and tiddles his snitch through the Mimsy Loop. It dribbles slowly towards Ye Tiny Olde Wishing Well, slips beneath the thatch overmantle, and plops in. Bingo, he’s won.
EPILOGUE While Charles poses with Emma Watson, who’s changed into something punnable for the papers, the critics gather round Richard to console him. Darcy looks very miserable, like I care. ‘Woff! Woff!’ says Bauhau, who seems dangerously overheated in his Michael Jackson tribute outfit, which includes white gloves on his offside paws.
That’s that then, for the forseeable future – urbanism’s officially OUT. All the architecture schools will now be re-motivated and it’ll make the BBC look ‘edgier’ when they do one of their gritty dramas.
FIN Monitor situation from the recliner. Already the news is spreading. Twitter users are requested to reset their location to ‘18th-century England’.