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Beating the recession is all about restructuring and decorporation

Ian Martin put the finishing touches on his Paradise Atrium in Jeddah

Monday. I’ve been asked to sketch out some design concepts for a prestige golf resort in Scotland.

It’s the second one this year, although I never did hear back from Hugh Hefner’s people about ‘The 19th Vajazzle’, a Playboy-themed complex with hot tubs and golf puns all over the place. Horrible to see golf objectified in that way.

The client this time is a mysterious American tycoon with impeccable Scottish ancestry who signs himself ‘Donald McFollicle’. The brief calls for a ‘super-Scottish look, haggis/heather/whatnot but with a defining aesthetic that says you don’t like it, boo hoo, take your objections and shove them up your ass’.

I’m wasting no more spec time on projects like this. I email back a quick note saying if he wants ordinary people to stay away, put a tartan security fence around the perimeter and make sure everything within it is unaffordable.

Tuesday. Put the finishing touches to my Paradise Atrium in Jeddah. It’s the centrepiece of several marvellous, concentric dollops of petrified wealth.

My atrium will be a ‘luxury outlet hamlet’ styled on ancient local caves. They will be constructed from a whipped concrete and platinum sorbet encrusted with diamonds. I wanted rubies but the client was adamant – if we’re encrusting, it has to be diamonds, that’s basic architectural grammar.

These magical retail caves will be filled with the wonders of the world eg handbags and cigars. They form Phase One of a bigger picture – Paradise Paradise. Phase Two will be the 1.3 mile-high Paradise Tower around and very much above my atrium. This will be an architectural marvel, probably looking like a gigantic tasselled bathrobe or something.

After that, Phase Three – Paradise City. A vast orbital settlement of short-stay tourist accommodation, business zones, retail campuses, race track and gambling park. Girdling this, Phase Four: Paradise Paradise, plus Paradise Paradise Visitor Centre. Sophisticated LED arrays, laser nets and a special CGI ‘mist’ will create the optical illusion of a huge and exotic garden rolling out to the horizon.

All visitors to Paradise Paradise will be issued with counterfeit passports, making it clear that nothing is real.

Wednesday. To a conference: ‘Lean Times, Leaner Businesses’. A six-hour voyage of discovery exploring ways of beating the recession with breaks for coffee, lunch and ‘comfort’, which used to mean smoking but now means toilet, or fiddling with your phone. Throughout the day there’s vague advice about ‘delivering niche services to a diversified marketplace’ earnestly presented by plump young men in sticky-up hair talking bollocks. According to one of these gelled bastards, architects should retrain as pastry chefs to create bold new architectural statements for the afternoon tea crowd in some faux-English Chinese hotel.

Another suggests that younger architects could make a fortune in the videogames industry creating dystopian backdrops for killing sprees in the non-physical world, for a change. Other niche roles mentioned: personal trainer for the environmentally unfit, hat designer, psychogeographical tour guide, pet makeoverist, micro-interior imagineer (cars, sheds etc), cultural therapist, professional eccentric party guest, community place officer.  

But the real focus is on Defensive Restructuring. The world of epic space has a strong folk memory. This teaches that when times are tough, contract. A succession of moisturised Cassandras illustrate their points with bouncing graphics: SHRINK TO SURVIVE. Large practices should pare things down to core services. Small to medium practices should encourage voluntary redundancy. Sole practioners maybe just lose a bit of weight.

The real lesson is that in any recession there is a high and dependable demand for one-day conferences on the subject at £190 + VAT.

Thursday. Redesign Syria, giving it a more ‘predictable’ feel.

Friday. Rock Steady Eddie the fixer calls. ‘Decorporation’ is going to be BIG. Decorporation is shorthand for the boutique re-use of ‘surplus’ public libraries, adult learning centres, municipal swimming pools, etc. ‘There’s a huge bloody appetite out there for the confiscation of public property, you know…’. He doesn’t bother to add ‘…among the sort of arseholes architects can expect from now on as clients’.

Saturday. Give a short lecture on decorporation in the pub. As nobody else has heard of it, I am technically an opinion former.

Sunday. Zeitgeist catch-up in the recliner. Livestream a vodcast by Prof Melanie Hue of Loughborough University on the moral consequences of ecological sin, but then decorporate about four minutes in.

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