Airbrushing people from the landscapes of the past to create a retro-chic version of the future
Ian Martin shouts ‘yay!’ at the mention of the Olympics
MONDAY. Redesign the lobby at the Houses of Parliament, giving it a more polished, subtle vibe with acoustically-smart ‘whispering niches’ and universally deniable access.
TUESDAY. My proposal for a prefabricated farmhouse has disappointed planners in Hampshire. But I have prepared some brilliant excuses, which should easily slot together at the public inquiry.
WEDNESDAY. Spring cleaning. Bit depressing. I’ve discovered a drawer full of municipal housing schemes from way back in the bad old days before we could rely on the philanthropy of private landlords to shelter poor families.
How naive they look now, these proud little blocks of flats. Without (if I may say) any pretension at all, full of rugged promise. But uncommissioned, alas. For decades they lay there like forgotten potatoes, germinating unseen, turning to liquefaction and dust. They have perished, as all dreams perish, in the dark. I sigh, close the drawer and go to the pub.
After a few hours I return from the pub with Rock Steady Eddie the fixer, in an entirely different frame of mind. We tip out the contents of the drawer and have a proper rummage. I’d entirely forgotten about one carefully-preserved collection of ‘Artist’s Impressions’. The handwriting’s callow; the apostrophe is diffident. Yet it’s an idyllic vision of public housing, undiminished by the generic artwork we all used at the time. On the contrary. There’s an undeniable retro charm in the bell-bottoms and facial hair, although some people appear to be Close and Far Away versions of the same person. Eddie is enthralled.
‘Gold dust, chev. You any idea how much people would pay for 1970s space standards? Or, bloody hell, what’s this – a communal laundry? Allotments? Here, who’s this geezer in the whatever, uniform, looks a bit On The Buses, a JANITOR? He’d do what? Security and maintenance, God Almighty I strongly bloody advise you to airbrush out all the giveaways and think about this for a contemporary metropolitan scenario; you got any biscuits?’
He’s right. If this were built as affordable housing today it would satisfy the contextualists, the urbanists AND the users. It looks old so it would fit in. It looks affordable, so would please the politicians. The inhabitants could explore the connectivity of a socialist past. And the flats would obviously be really expensive, so that’s the moral argument won for architects and developers. By teatime I’ve removed all Letraset anachronisms, including a smiling Dad in tank top and loon pants with visible penis bulge, a group of pickets around a brazier, and a smoking child.
THURSDAY. That’s the last time I take a brief over the phone. My masterplan for ‘doubling Moscow’ by adding exquisite Georgian terraces and lots of pubs selling Guinness has been rejected.
FRIDAY. A joint meeting of the Olympic Rebadging Task Force and the Royal Institute for the Pop-Uption of British Architects. Happy days.
In the chairs: games suprema Suzi Towel and RIPBA president Molly Bismuth. After humanist prayers, apologies for absence on the advice of tax consultants and a Mexican Wave, we push on with the solemn business of Agenda Item One: ‘The environmental impact of ground-to-air roof-mounted missile batteries and their possible significance in the context of widening sponsorship opportunities’.
As agreed, those present are required to shout ‘yay!’ at each mention of ‘the Olympics’, ‘boomshakalaka!’ when anyone says ‘legacy’ and ‘ooh, matron!’ every time a ‘pop-up’ slips out.
Summary: we must take all necessary steps to avoid carnage at the Olympics – yay! Gentrified areas of London are clearly ideal bases from which to repel so-called pop-up – ooh, matron! - terrorist attacks and we should urgently consider cross-marketing brands with a good airstrike battery fit (Sky+, Aero, Duracell, etc) as official counter-terrorism partners, building a lasting security legacy – boomshakalaka! – and badging the 2012 Olympics – yay! – as the world’s first Designer Pop-Up – ooh, matron! – Legacy – boomshakalaka! – Olympics – yay!
SATURDAY. Hugely impressed with Hashtag, a new urban cannabis farm designed by hot young epic spatialists Lūnd Börgen. The exterior resembles an Edwardian terraced house; inside it’s very much ‘open-plan’ and ‘green’. Visitors can see how the cannabis is cultivated in a humane and ecologically-sustainable environment, and there’s even an organic farm shop selling local produce.
The car park’s a bit of a nightmare, to be honest.
SUNDAY. Retrofit self into the recliner.