A journey into deep epic space with the Masters of the Quangoverse
MONDAY. I meet Molly Bismuth, the next president of the RIPBA, after an event at the Royal Academy. She’s on great form following the function, I tell her. She mistakes my quip for an aesthetic judgement, and punches me.
TUESDAY. To Gateshead, where Dusty Penhaligon the conservactionist is leading a vigil for the legendary, doomed Owen Carpark Carpark.
Designed in the 60s by brutalist practice Owen Carpark & Partners, it was famously featured in the movie Bollock Poulson starring Michael Caine as a bloodless architecture critic. Dusty and his crew of scruffy mentalists have tried everything to save it.
There was the failed attempt to list it on the grounds of ‘outstanding motoring heritage’: the tight concrete turns bear several decades’ worth of scraped paint, including traces of a rare burgundy Alvis TD21. Dusty even persuaded millionaire graffiti artist Gutsy to sneak in and do a massive ironic piece on the top deck: two enigmatic Geordie sharks dressed as the Candy Brothers, one of them saying ‘thou shall have ciabatta’. That didn’t work as this is Gateshead, not Newcastle.
In the end, Dusty decided the Owen Carpark Carpark should die with dignity and arrived early with his own stash of explosives. But the contractor found out and insisted on paying Dusty and his team.
Boom! There it goes. On the one hand, Dusty was morally compromised. On the other, he’s £250 up, cash in hand. ‘And on the third hand,’ he says, squinting at the horizon and toking on a rollup, ‘blowing shit up for cash is the future for conservaction…’ I don’t like the tone of his cackle.
WEDNESDAY. It’s bad enough that the political landscape is changing - all these puzzling new political herbaceous borders - but now the Coalition has gone too far.
Meddling ministers are speculatively looking up, beyond the political landscape, into the twinkling vastness of epic space. Our sinister new secretary of state for entertainment, Jonathan Cockbun (pronounced ‘Coburn’), has decided to make his mark by rethinking the galaxy of architectural quangoes. Or the ‘Milky Way’ as it’s known by those of us who make a living from it.
He’s got a nerve I must say, this Mr Cockbun. You can’t simply reconstellate the Quangoverse. It will introduce a dangerous volatility into the vital work of looking at architectural drawings and moaning about them.
THURSDAY. Email from the Department of Entertainment. Mr Cockbun Pronounced Coburn has invited me to on to his new Quango Rationalisation Taskforce!
I am delighted to be part of this long-overdue examination of a bloated and outdated system, and at a very generous day rate too.
FRIDAY. To the inaugural meeting of the taskforce. Everyone of significance in the world of epic space is there. Next to Mr Cockbun Pronounced Coburn is architecture minister the Rt. Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown and his personal bee swarm. The room is packed with advisors, including polemical modernist chronicler Rupert Deutschemark, author of Municipal Stalinism.
After lunch, we agree Phase 1 of the New Quangoverse. Obscure, distant quangoes such as the Mysterious Tropes Advisory Board will be split into smaller, discrete ‘dwarf quangoes’ e.g. The Finial Review Panel, so that they become demonstrably ridiculous and disappear. This is illustrated as expected by Upmother-Brown’s bees, who calmly fly off in all directions, out of sight.
All remaining quangoes will be condensed into a massive, super-dense ‘megaquango’. Upon the signal of a soft whistling noise from the architecture minister, the bees return and hover in a tight formation, about the size of a small melon.
SATURDAY. I’m designing the first of what I hope will be a long line of private London universities.
It needs a businesslike feel, so I sketch it from the ground up. Commercial foundation, strong bottom line, paywalls clad (though not set) in stone, double-entry facade, an Asian top-up and one of those amusing paint jobs to make it look ‘roofless’ as there has to be
a weak Cockney joke in there somewhere.
I rule out ‘dreaming spires’ as too opulent and show-offy. This is a university after all, not a block of luxury bloody flats. I will however incorporate random ‘thinking balls’ here and there for visitors to encounter and be delighted by. It is this feature that will, I hope, clinch the architecture award.
SUNDAY. Overhaul self, while retaining my domestic character, by falling asleep in the recliner. twitter.com/IanMartin