By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Your browser seems to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser.


Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.


An outsider’s view of the royal re-boot, and a tentative proposal for an atheist cathedral

Ian Martin texts the royals

MONDAY. I’m working on a book about architecture, for young children this time.

It tells the story of a giant larval trope so hungry that for a whole decade it eats its way through everything, chomp chomp chomp. At the end, the larval trope is transformed into an extravagant symbol of millennial neo-liberal narcissism.

It’s called The Gehry Blairy Caterpillar. Must contact Stephen Fry’s agent, see if he’s up for doing the audiobook.

TUESDAY. Sketch out my proposed new atheist cathedral. It will be in the ‘scepto-structuralist’ style, built from locally crowdsourced materials and topped with a copper-plated consensus.

In accordance with the notional congregation’s profound lack of faith, it will remain unbuilt.

WEDNESDAY. To Highgrove for drinks with my old mate Snorty, Duchess of Cornwall. I’ve agreed to keep her company while ‘the hub’ relaunches his Prince’s Foundation.

We spend a pleasant afternoon under an umbrella in the garden smoking, drinking cocktails and cackling at the scene inside. His Nibs is entertaining sympathetic journalists and assorted sycophants in the Elephant Room, the famous 1980s Indian Gothic extension designed by community architect Lord Covernote. The event is exquisitely ‘coalition’ – guests are deferential but tieless. A piano trio is playing Ravel. There are international nibbles.

The official line is that Charles is enjoying a ‘resounding triumph at last’. After 30 years of campaigning against the mindless construction of modern buildings he has finally been vindicated by the recession.

You can see he’s struggling with the script, which has been workshopped by his new and very young team of advisers. His mouth’s doing that thing it does, like he’s just lost a filling. He WANTS to say he’s relaunching his foundation, but they’re making him say ‘re-boot’.

They’re also making him say ‘that’s why we’re totally moving the brand mission across, from healing the built environment to focusing on the engagement of sustainably-planned, built, maintained and fun communities. Which if you imagined that as a person OK it would be a young girl laughing with the wind in her hair, plus if you imagined it as a car would be a classic 2CV with the top down, that sounds a bit naughty lol, brackets pause for laughter, oh I see…’

He limps on like this for 10 minutes, his voice jabbing awkwardly at the buttons of Engagement, Education and Empowerment, the movement of his kilt eloquent of the community’s limitless potential. Around the room his rebranding consultants bask in their golden rhetoric like bluetoothed baby sharks.

‘Christ on a scooter darling, have you ever SEEN such a feeble shower?’ says Snorty from inside a cloud of panatella cirrostratus. It’s true, Charles’s entourage is pretty ‘corporate’. If they didn’t have little badges with their names on you’d never be able to tell one from another. ‘And my God, they’re thick. Thick and shallow. Terrible combo. Ugh, look at them in their bloody mid-range suits and austerity haircuts. Gruesome. I liked the old lot better. They were all utterly batty. Much more interesting’.

I too fondly remember the old days, when dining with ‘the Prince’s Inner Circle’ was an invitation to enter a world of crazy erudition and eccentric dress. It was like having supper with the entire cast of Wind in the Willows.

All men, of course. Although I do remember a German professor – God, what was his name, with the Eraserhead hair? – turning up once in a frock.

THURSDAY. Text from Snorts. ‘Hangover. Cantilevered to buggery. C now banging on about sorting out The Oceans! Probs wants to design New Atlantis hahaha x’

FRIDAY. Email from Charles. ‘Don’t think me potty but are you interested in joining my New Atlantis movement? Swimmable neighbourhoods, green space (algae etc) and NO BOATS! Ying tong yiddle I po! ;-).’

SATURDAY. Disappointing night at the Innovative Materials of the Year Awards.

For the third year running my innovating partner Beansy and I fail to win anything, despite our discovery and development of ‘hard air’.

We sullenly attend the aftershow karaoke. This just rubs it in, as a wobbly succession of pissed, smirking bastards takes to the little stage, a microphone in one hand and an award in the other. Worse, they’re singing amended material-themed versions of popular tunes.

Aerogels’ by Robbie Williams. ‘PTFE’ by The Village People. ‘Graphene’ by Dolly Parton.

SUNDAY. Horizontal bitterness in the recliner.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters