A moral dilemma, and an encounter with a philanderophist
Ian Martin goes on strike
MONDAY. Things seem quite politically fluid at the moment, don’t they? It’s difficult to know which economic polices I should support in order to win the approval of potential clients.
Mind you, that’s because the idea of ‘clients’ is pretty fluid too. In common with all who practise the mysteries of epic space, I’m prepared to suck up to anyone who’ll pay a fair rate, plus VAT, plus professional indemnity insurance surcharge, minus five per cent for prompt settlement.
But where to pitch? I now feel utterly betrayed by the public sector. For years and years I campaigned to put design quality at the heart of the procurement process – what good did that do me? Nearly everyone in my local authority contacts book has been laid off, or is bleating about ‘insufficient funds’, which is a pathetic excuse.
When has a laughably inadequate budget EVER prevented the commissioning of architecture?
TUESDAY. Decide to put all my suck-up eggs in one basket. From now on I’m concentrating on the running dogs of capitalism, as they’re the only people allowed to spend public money.
I have lunch with Rock Steady Eddie the fixer and my old friend Carnaby Butlin, the celebrated ‘philanderophist’. Like all philanderophists, he serially bestows huge favours upon society – adopting a discounted public bank here, investing in a relic of British Railways there – before ‘re-assetising’ and moving on to his next fancy.
It’s a perfect fit with his retained architectural facadists who create ‘wealthening nodes’ from within historic landscape of our towns and cities. Both his businesses and his buildings are acquired and then reorganised behind the shell. Profits are capillaried to the Caymans, the drained husks tarted up and disposed of.
‘Ask not what your country can do for you,’ purrs Butlin, ‘but what you can do for your off-shore holding company…’ He has a disturbing laugh. It sounds like a boiler firing up. ‘Heroic, you are,’ Eddie tells him. ‘Heroic. So look, Carnaby. Me and’ – here he waves vaguely in my direction – ‘this ponce are totally up for pitching any infrastructure gigs you fancy, now Ozzy Osbourne’s dishing out the old wonga-wonga, eh? Can I help you with that mutton pie?’
Butlin’s pilot light ignites his chuckling lungs. He explains that he IS bidding for some of Britain’s new ‘infra-gigs’. But that they will be funded with pension money and designed and built by Chinese firms. To be honest, Eddie is even more appalled to discover that Butlin’s mutton pie has been fully excavated, leaving only a thin pastry slough, as if the living mutton-snake had slithered off.
We’re too busy inspecting the pastry shell to notice that Butlin has disappeared.
WEDNESDAY. I’m on STRIKE! I say ‘on strike’. As a self-defining professional I’m simply underemployed, feeling aggrieved and politicising my ennui.
THURSDAY. Design a ‘pavilion of protest’ to be erected in the Consulate Hall at the Royal Institute for the Protection of British Architects.
It’s like a big yurt, but with slogans embroidered all over it e.g ‘Space Is A Prison Of The Mind’, ‘Function Follows Forum’, ‘Occupy Yourself’.
FRIDAY. Brilliant. The RIPBA is so concerned to be even-handed, they want me to design a ‘balloon of indifference’.
It will hover mockingly above the pavilion, covered in sloganised rebuttal: ‘I Worked Hard To Get Up Here’, ‘You Don’t Have To Be In Tents To Be Neurotics But It Helps’, ‘Merry Christmas Suckers’, etc.
This is more important than the sniggering critics would have you believe, as pavilions and balloons are very much aspects of the same space-filling exercise. And if we do not fill space what is the point of space? What is the point of US?
SATURDAY. Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Eco-retrofittable Parabolicism 7, Auto-defenestrated Pseudobethan 1, after extra time and sub-genres.
SUNDAY. Newspaper review in the recliner. My friend Darcy the architecture critic has written a massive piece in the Creative on Sunday.
As usual it is a) about 20 per cent adverbs and b) addresses an entirely fictional phenomenon. This week it is ‘plustainability’. According to Darcy’s deadline-galvanised mind, plustainability is the new green.
‘But it is emerald green. It is acid green. It makes the old green look grey…’ On and on it ploughs. As far as I can make out it just means the same old shit but with grass ceilings and in the Outer Hebrides.