An Unbelievable House of None
Ian Martin designs a ‘place of ourship’
MONDAY Voice message from my fixer, Rock Steady Eddie. Apparently there’s still no firm steer on ‘what a new Caliphate would bring in the way of business opportunities, they’re not even on LinkedIn mate’. I mentioned the Ottoman Empire once. He thought it was a cinema. When I pointed out that Ottoman wasn’t a place, he got shirty and said he knew it was a discount furniture retailers. In a former cinema. Idiot.
TUESDAY I’m struggling, frankly, with this government gig to redesign the North. The brief is terrible - an email from George Osborne. All caps, very ‘2am’ feel to it.
‘PROBLEM: WRONG ECONOMICS IN NORTH. NEED RIGHT ECONOMICS EG MARGOT’S PLACE IN PRIMROSE HILL UP 10K IN AN AFTERNOON! NORTH LIVING IN PAST. COALS TO NEWCASTLE? WAKE UP NORTH, LIKELY LADS NOW BOTH LIVING IN PRIMROSE HILL!
‘SOLUTION: SECOND TERM = VITAL TRANSPORT LINKS + RISING HOUSE PRICES. WRONG ECONOMIC UNITS (SKIVERS NOT STRIVERS) CAN FUCK OFF TO INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND, BLOODY GOOD RIDDANCE. SOMETHING SOMETHING NORTHERN POWERHOSE? URBAN SPLASH? FIRM ALL THIS SHIT UP IN TIME FOR CONFERENCE.’
WEDNESDAY Aha. A quick call to Osbo and all becomes clear. Party HQ assumed ‘powerhose’ was a typo and started briefing the press about creating a ‘Northern Powerhouse’. He got angry, punched a couple of underlings, but it was too late to change the narrative.
Now I’m redrafting everything so it make sense. An Urban Splash-style mass gentrification of the North, concentrated into a social, cultural and economic powerhose. Cleansing the region of doubt and malingering at last, for its own good. Splash. Hose. Wallop. Change you can believe in.
I already have some ideas for the promotional campaign. Sean Bean looking butch in a pelt cloak and leather boots, climbing into a water cannon and hosing the whining, Labour-voting parts of the North off the map. Next, Wayne Hemingway arrives in a tank, barking orders about modular kit designs and ‘keeping it real yeah?’ Then there’s a whizzy montage of hope and aspiration and when the smoke clears the North looks a lot more like North London and BOSH, get Danny Boyle on the phone.
THURSDAY Oh dear. My Contemporary Pavilion of Fleeting Relevance has collapsed overnight at the Antwerp Pop-Up Expo. No problem. I’ll just 3D print another one.
FRIDAY To Berlin, where I’m designing something called, preposterously, a ‘place of ourship’ for an atheist collective.
House of None will be the world’s first ecumenically nuanced post-theological meeting place. It will draw together the entire rainbow of non-belief, from Agnostic Normcore, through Semi-Lutheran, to the people who describe themselves as ‘athiest’ on their Twitter bios.
The idea is simple to the point of stupid. You know how airports and other areas of low faith-density have in recent years encouraged excruciatingly dull ‘houses of togetherness’ for Christians, Muslims and Jews to share? Voids of contemplation so thoroughly, ruthlessly drained of architectural interest that they become minimalist shrines to nothing?
Yeah, well I’m doing exactly that for the sanctimonious other lot. A sort of spiritual Google headquarters. A place where the atheist corporate umma can feel smug about itself as a nebulous entity, but where individuals may also find fulfilment. The design ethic is ‘rented suburban office space with a leased sculpture in the gravel bed by reception, no smoking anywhere including car park’. Inside, all major religions will be gently and specifically mocked in a series of themed sneering rooms leading to a hangout hub, where the casual congregation may gather to discuss themselves with reference to one another, at length.
It’s a project that’s much more about the sum of its parts than the whole. Which is why it’s being crowdsourced by a bunch of insufferable narcissists, each of whom gets a brick with their name on it for fifty quid, and the certain knowledge that they’ll get their spiritual reward on earth.
SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Excoriated Peculiar 0, Accessible Fancy 1, after extra minutes and a penalty upgrade.
SUNDAY Horizontal thinking time disturbed by a call from Rock Steady Eddie. Someone’s nicked my House of None idea. Worse, someone’s barged in and had my Northern Powerhose masterplan. Worse, the thieving smartarse turns out to be my old adversary Bauhau, the architectural dachshund. Or whatever malevolent human force is now guiding him.