From Cannes to Tamworth, via karaoke seminars and 'hypercrete'
It's like a massive car boot sale but without the bargains, or the freedom to smoke, or ordinary people, or anything interesting at all really. The visitors, or delegates as they grandly style themselves, are there chiefly because everyone else is. It's a magnet for the sort of shark-eyed tosser who has 'property professional' on his business card and a photograph of his car as a screensaver.
This week though we have the antidote, INNOV08, on all week at Tamworth Sports and Leisure Centre. It couldn't be more remote ideologically from MUPIT, unless you shunted it a bit further up the M6. This event is for the dreamers, the slackers and the nutters who keep architecture going. INNOV08 filters out all the sanctimonious squareheads. Believe me, nobody wants to cycle from Greenwich to Tamworth, even for charity. There's no product 'literature' here. People aren't ostentatiously checking their i-Phone every two minutes for the shitting rugby. And 'end user' is a vulgar insult, not a species of client. Bring it on!
Oh. 'Event Postpone Till Tommorow Cartaker Has Keys And Is At Cheltenam'. Never mind, look. The pubs are open, thronged with misfits from the architectural fringe...
TUESDAY. Wake up with a pounding headache. Have a vague recollection of a 'drinking karaoke design seminar' in The Intelligent Niche with a bunch of amiable geeks from Loughborough College of Coarse Arts.
By the time I reach INNOV08 the hall is already half-full, which signals maximum attendance. There are some fascinating prototypes on display, including a section of an old terrace house which cleverly has been left more or less intact but upgraded for a laugh. There's a mag-lev stairlift. The 1990s eco-space has been replaced by an original Victorian scullery. The chimney is now a wind tunnel, harvesting the power of volatile air via an Aeolian harp mounted in the fireplace. There's a green ceiling in the living room. 'Why bother cultivating a green roof when most of the time you can't see it? Caution: beware of falling frogs'.
WEDNESDAY. In the morning, proper workshops with lathes and anvils. After lunch, a witty presentation on Investing In The Future given by an 'ecological bookmaker'. Correction, 'sedum accountant'.
We discuss the buoyancy of the sustainability market, unimpeachable and apparently recession-proof. A cash-only seminar explores threats, opportunities, challenges and early-price odds. I have a tenner at 3/1 on the Non-Disclosure of Carbon Act to be law by this time next year. And a fiver says Abu Dhabi will beat Dubai in the high stakes Middle East Luxury Steeplechase.
THURSDAY. 'Is real estate an economic destabiliser?' This innovative session brilliantly inverts normal conference policy by treating property agents with undisguised contempt. Young chancers with clipboards - the women in pantsuits, the men with shockwaved hair - take it in turns to talk high-velocity bollocks on top of a bamboo scaffold, which we're all encouraged to shake. A grisly reminder of what can happen in a tumbling market.
FRIDAY. New Products Day includes some fascinating and ironic new materials. There's free-range organic grouting, supernatural light tubes and furniture made from CDs that are not only recycled but pirated as well. Someone with imagination has collected all the flyers advertising innovative new materials left over from MUPIT and then mineralised them with Portland cement to create 'hypecrete'.
Meanwhile, guerilla artists are presenting a theoretical project exploring 'the evolving structural logic of the straw bale'. Very scary. They predict that by 2013 straw bales will become self-aware. By 2016 they will have formed a 'Straw Umma' and will be at war with the human race.
SATURDAY. Home to find answerphone and inbox clogged with rubbish. Solicitous messages from my new friends at Archiholics Anonymous, wondering why I didn't turn up this week. Sod it. Having spent hours in the company of people talking about architecture, I'm cured.
SUNDAY. Ecomenical Easter service at Our Lady of The Specification. Multi-gender celebration with light bongo action and nodding. Intercession of Issues. The usual sermon reflecting on the Crucifixion. Summary: 'How uncivilised 1st Century Palestine seems compared to our own society, with its religious tolerance and No More Nails adhesive'. Afternoon pissed in the recliner.