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Can Magic Arborealism overcome the Architecture of Absence?

Ian Martin comforts Isis de Cambray after the demise of the Commission for Arborealism and the Barked Environment

Monday. Lunch with my old friend, the hippy gardener Isis de Cambray. We discuss the sad but inevitable news that the Commission for Arborealism and the Barked Environment is to be wound up.

Apparently advice on the correct disposition of trees is a luxury this country cannot afford. But I for one will miss CABE’s stern lectures on the dangers of ‘over-clumping’ and the need for non-contextual saplings to respect their elders.

Isis is an eloquent champion of Magic Arborealism, its ancient mysteries and arts. Indeed, an intensive course of regressive therapy last year revealed that she’d actually BEEN a tree in several past lives, including a silver birch once absent-mindedly caressed by Robin Hood. She’s won many high-profile clients, including the Prince of Wales. So why is she avoiding eye contact? Why is she so silent on CABE’s demise?

Tuesday. Oh, hang on. The FT’s done a big piece on the rising forestry market. Financial speculators, perhaps chastened and humbled by their errors of judgement in recent years, are now buying up farms and woodland. Raw materials are now ‘sustainable investments’. Wood, like food, is good.

I ring Isis. ‘So what if I’m offering advice to billionaires?’ she mumbles. ‘Don’t forget that HEDGE FUND contains the word HEDGE, yeah? My expertise in the metaphysical husbandry of trees and suchlike has never been more important. Got to go, I’m on a deadline with this herb garden for Gabriel Garcia Marquez…’

Wednesday. The penny drops: ‘Government plans to flog half of Britain’s forests’. Isis and her horrible new clients will get grants via the Common Agricultural Policy to preserve rare chestnut trees and truffle woods. Then discover these don’t actually exist. Then get development grants to whack up holiday camps and upmarket ‘gladed communites’.

Isis rings. I screen the call. She’s dead to me.

Thursday. Emergency meeting at the Department of Entertainment. We’ll be discussing how architecture should look from now on, given that it must be a) cut and b) seen to be doing the right thing.

Our Architecture Remagining Unit is an eclectic bunch, I must say. There’s The Rt. Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown of course, the architecture minister. He and his pet bees form an imposing inter-species presence as ever, although the bees look a little more volatile recently. They’ve been reduced by 7 per cent, in solidarity with those top earners making painful sacrifices at this most difficult time.

Also present: Anushka, an ‘aesthetic strategist’ working out of the Treasury; Simon, a cartoonish marketing pillock in bamboo-framed glasses; two teenage in-house media advisers in identical hipster capes; a fat bloke from Communities who’s already had all the biscuits. Technically there’s a Liberal Democrat voice there too: ‘Hadid’, one of the bees.

After some neutral small talk (exchange rates, house prices, decent schools) Upmother-Brown pulls a sincere face. Tough times ahead. We take no pleasure in dismantling the welfare state. But it HAS to go if we are to recover genuine economic stability. He’s not talking about ‘1980s style’ illusory stability either. He’s talking about genuinely stable pre-Chartism shit right here.   

On and on he bangs. It’s not the state’s responsibility to provide architecture and that’s that. If people, hard-working people, choose to spend some of their income on architecture, fine. But let him be clear. The job of publicly-funded (i.e. shareholder-profitable) architecture now is to dampen expectation. There will be no reckless expression of human fellowship.

After more biscuits we devise a Five Point Plan:

1. New Architecture to have ‘broader shoulders’, in order to bear a greater cultural burden.

2. Social housing to have more of a ‘private rented sector’ look, and ownership.

3. Reduce all architectural outgoings (balconies, fire exits etc) by 30 per cent.

4. Suppress all unnecessary styles by reducing the prefix ‘neo’ by a third, eg ‘no-Modernism’, ‘no-Classical’.

5. Actually Four Points only, 20 per cent reduction in Points!

Friday. Christen Britain’s new Architecture of Absence ‘no-Georgian’ in honour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Saturday. Check messages. Isis called. Would I be interested in being part of her forestry resculpting consultancy? She’s alive to me again.

Sunday. Heave self into recliner, making sure I’m ‘all in it together’. Not very comfortable. I seem to be in a double dip recession.twitter.com/IanMartin

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