Putting the ‘temporary’ into ‘contemporary’ while ignoring the ‘con’
Ian Martin designs a pop-up cast iron bridge
MONDAY. I have decided to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit of the age by designing a contemporary iron foundry on the south bank of the Thames. There’s a perfect site – that pointless empty patch in front of the big ferris wheel.
My proposed ironworks would be very ‘butch’: squat, dense, a place where proper things are made. Yin to the yang of the London Eye’s ‘fem’ elegance. Imagine. That famous Human Lazy Susan, its pods full of stately gawpers looking down upon the unequivocal, belching maw of real industrial revival.
I am also haughtily announcing that the style of my foundry will be ‘post-gastro retro’. I mean it will look exactly like one of those South Bank restaurants that resemble a converted foundry from the outside. But here’s the clever part. The interior won’t be filled with air, light, jazz and loads of tetchy bastards ordering a £25 starter and some tapwater. No. It will be filled with a fuck-off blast furnace and a non-gender-specific unionised workforce turning out top-quality cast iron.
Comrades, the days of effete regeneration are over. Let us now build recovery the old way, with muscular architecture and a network of artisan manufacturing bases!
TUESDAY. I am in urgent talks with the Coalition about my industrial revival idea. They’re extremely receptive, as ‘talking up Britain’ is apparently now an important economic generator.
Over a sandwich lunch with ministers and their special friends, it becomes clear that my foundry proposal could theoretically be ‘rolled out’ across the country, like molten steel. It’s what we’re all calling the Heavy Craft Initiative.
The inspiration is farming. Everybody hates farmers, with their churlish attitudes, self-profiled victimhood and armed, twitchy demeanour. But everyone loves farmers’ markets, with their knobbly veg, indie cheese and concealed weapons.
Localism in action, see? That’s why we need subsidised neighbourhood craft manufacturing. Rough, artsy steel with bits in. Crusty homebaked bricks. Organic local concrete. Thick, cloudy glass.
My Coalition mates assure me that planning permission for the foundry is a shoo-in, and that certain shadowy enterprise funds can be found. I remind them I still need local clients for the cast iron.
WEDNESDAY. Now there’s a turn-up. Email from the Metropolitan Police’s Community Urbanism Unit.
They want to commission a pop-up cast iron bridge, running parallel to Westminster Bridge. ‘This would be deployed on an ad hoc basis for public demonstrations eg against NHS reform, allowing the free flow of traffic in both directions via existing roads and ensuring access to St Thomas’ Hospital throughout…’
THURSDAY. Lunch with Darcy Farquear’say of the Creative on Sunday. I ‘accidentally’ leak the foundry, the Met’s pop-up demo idea, and the ‘fact’ that the project already has a nickname – the Irony Bridge.
Darcy promises not to tell anyone. His preposterous trophy dachshund Bauhau remains mute throughout, clearly guilty about his own leak, which becomes slowly visible through the stylish cream jumpsuit he’s been forced to wear.
FRIDAY. Work up a design statement for the Irony Bridge. This is basically an architectural pitch, so I fill it with hollow jargon and platitudes.
‘The structure harkens back to days of yore, with a clear emphasis on nostalgic engineering yet with a modern twist…it is conceived as a fashionable pop-up, at once temporary and contemporary. And the balance implicit in a locally-cast iron bridge which is “temporary contemporary” should address any concerns that might arise from the planning or community communities…’
As a crowd control tool it’s brilliant. Kettling is straightforward. Coppers with truncheons, tasers, pepper spray and freestyle hand-to-hand combat techniques at one end. Protesters enter from the other via a turnstile until the bridge is full. Seal off with coppers, done.
There’d be a charge of say a quid per person to get on to the bridge. A small price to pay for participatory democracy, or whatever we’re calling it. Once organisers have booked the Irony Bridge for a demo, they’re going to look pretty ineffective if they don’t fill it. I reckon it could hold about 10,000 people squashed up a bit. That’s ten grand a demo before you even start talking about commercial food, drink and toilet licenses.
SATURDAY. Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Modular Agnostic 1, Prefabricated Creationism 1.
SUNDAY. Newspaper review in the recliner. Big piece by Darcy about heavy craft, the Irony Bridge and the rise of a ‘temporary contemporary’ style. Idiot.