Designing a blameless world – in beauty, in honesty and in legacy
Ian Martin witnesses a score draw between Autonomous Molecularism and Neoplastinated Omnomnominalism
Monday. In the morning, sketch out ideas for a ‘white collar factory’ (architectural clients), a ‘blue collar factory’ (architectural subcontractors) and a ‘collarless factory’ (architects).
In the afternoon, a lovely email from SamCam thanking me for my guidance on the Downing Street do-over. We’ve gone for a Fixed Britain feel, all seamless community fabrics and post-war Futility styling. Though Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street ARE technically PFI leasebacks now.
Tuesday. The pilot of MasterSpace airs on BBC2. It’s cringe-making. Amateur designers throw together an iconic building using basic software in under an hour. Then judges Tub Hagendaas and Darcy Farquear’say are supposed to take them apart and shout things like ‘Spatial alchemy! Doesn’t get any tougher! Than this!’
Instead, Tub and Darcy have seized the opportunity to become caricatures of themselves. One MasterSpace hopeful has produced a donkey hospice. It’s a multi-layered open-plan job overlooking a sandy bay, all smart glass and carrots everywhere. There’s a donkey gym and pool, a donkey makeover suite, an interactive Museum of Donkeyhood and even a ‘person sanctuary’ on the first floor.
Darcy is in tears. ‘I’m getting positive, affirming space here. That sour note of melancholy nicely offset by the sweetness of the carrot motif… I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Those poor donkeys…’ Tub’s take on another contestant’s Six Mile Mall is dour: ‘This is a pop-up shopping mall that can be created alongside any six-mile motorway tailback in China. It is devoid of social significance. Dull. Languidly reflecting humanity’s purposelessness. I really like it’.
Wednesday. Meeting of the Olympic Rebadging Taskforce. We are conscious that all time and space is accelerating towards the Big Bang in 2012, when the single most important cultural event in the history of Britain takes place.
Will time and space even exist after the Olympics? In this secular age is it now OK to talk about ‘before and after DOG (Delivery Of Games)’?Will people cease to believe in DOG once the miracles stop? We’re rebadging the months remaining until our last salary payment as The Countdown. Everything after final payment is to be In Legacy.
Thursday. It’s catching on already. The role of city architect is ‘in legacy’. The lying shit Blair is now officially ‘in legacy’ and cannot be blamed for the sketchy redesign of Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t see why architects can’t simply be exempted from liability for any defects that occur once the bastard thing’s been built and is ‘in legacy’.
Friday. Lunch with The Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown. He has been minister for tourism and the licensed trade plus architecture if time permits for more than three months now, which makes him some kind of an authority.
As usual, he’s accompanied by his personal bee swarm. They obligingly settle down for a little nap on a nearby windowsill while he pokes at his starters with a fork. This is billed in the menu as ‘an architectural concatenation of contrasting forms and textures, a startling juxtaposition, both culturally and culinarily, to produce a post-urban bricolage of sensations’. It looks to me like a tiny portion of black pudding balanced on a scallop. Although, to be fair, that does also make it look like the model for a competition-winning, unbuildable seaside pavilion.
Upmother-Brown’s greatest asset is what he calls his ‘open mind’. He is fiercely ambivalent about everything. Like most people, he is neither staunchly traditionalist nor fervently modernist. In order for a building to be liked by him it must be ‘high-quality’. Architecture is the ‘yeast that causes a neighbourhood of human dough to rise, aspirationally’. He is relentlessly genial and harmless until I ask him why ‘big government’ is always lower case and in quotes, i.e. irrelevant and possibly fictional. Whereas Big Society is laid out like a Stalinist decree.
His face shows the slightest twitch of irritation. It is enough to summon his bees, who hover around my head, menacingly. ‘I want you to tell architects EXACTLY how committed to their cause I am. I may not know much about the built environment, but I know how to NAME BEES.’ He whistles softly, then calls to them individually. ‘Vitruvius… Apollodorus… Alberti… da Vinci…’ They form an obedient halo above his head.
Saturday. Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Autonomous Molecularism 1, Neoplastinated Omnomnominalism 1, after extra legacy.
Sunday. Successfully reverse-engineer my merger with the recliner.