Enabling a new kind of streetlife for the super-rich
Ian Martin redesigns the BBC
MONDAY Redesign the BBC, giving it an antique, distressed look.
TUESDAY Off to argue with planners about my latest brilliant residential scheme. It’s in one of London’s most instagrammed and polarised boroughs - luxury at one end, poverty at the other. Obviously I’d love to be doing something at the poverty end but you can’t argue with the logistics of wealth. And in any polarised London borough, the ‘trickle-across’ effect is a compelling argument.
Luxury, as any economist will tell you, radiates waves of electromagnetic envy. These waves bring a glowing motivational energy to cold and listless citizens, in much the same way as the sun warms the earth.I arrive for the meeting to discover, with some relief, that the old-school planners - bald, sceptical men in glasses with a sound grasp of the principles of aesthetic control - have been replaced by private sector contractors.
The two ‘planners’ assigned to my application are clearly job-seekers shipped in by some dodgy council services provider. Poor Hansel and Gretel have been given luminous tabards with OFFICIAL PLANNER on the back, a packed lunch and a checklist of design criteria.
My opening move is to praise the Victorian terrace as ‘a paradigm of congenial habitation’. I wait patiently while they find and tick that. Which is why, I say, my client (a billionaire and huge fan of Victorian London) wants to conserve an ENTIRE TERRACE as a single, 50-bedroom home. Hansel and Gretel look blank.
He’s a big Beatles fan, I explain. You know, like in that film where they all lived… Still blank. I explain who the Beatles were, but it doesn’t really help. Gretel looks thoughtful. There are 20 houses in this terrace, she says. That’s 20 families. And your client wants to convert it into a single household? So what? I say. Are you trying to limit family size? Where are we living - Maoist China?
The inside of Iain Duncan Smith’s head?
This new linear home will be porous once we have removed some of the walls, I say. It will have an internal street. Parking requirements will be reduced as the former terrace will be surrounded by its own landscaped service area. They’re ticking like mad now.
Yeah, open-plan, flexible space. Finding a new use for existing urban fabric. Innovative storage pods. Staggered windows. Feature staircases connecting everything like a 3-D chess game. A simple palette of traditional materials.
They give in. Approved. Say what you like about the destruction of the public sector, it’s an ill wind…
WEDNESDAY Lunch at some god-awful vegan brasserie with my old friend, environmental activist Amy Blackwater. Her trademark balaclava still turns a few heads, though fewer and fewer these days.
Yeah, the balaclava was once shocking. Now, as she says, it’s worn by ‘every bastard with a grievance, every synthetic punk with a political agenda, every atheist with soul envy’.
Amy is so very, very angry. It takes the arrival of our cocktails (Bloody Rainharvest for her, Coalition Wallbanger for me) to persuade her fists to unclench. It’s then that I notice her wristband. It has MAKE LUXURY HISTORY written on it. ‘Oh this, yeah, that’s why I wanted to see you, she says. New campaign to persuade architects to rediscover their social conscience.
This recession is forcing the poorest to live in dire conditions, yet all we read about is luxury flats! Does that seem FAIR to you?’
Of course not, I say. Of COURSE not. I mean obviously luxury has become devalued, hasn’t it? Luxury is the new standard, really. ‘Bullshit! You know what’s going on here. It’s time to realign. Can I count on your sodding support or not?’ The mouth-hole of her balaclava is wet with indignant saliva.Now, I’m not saying that Amy scares me, but I raise a glass and assure her that she has my support for making luxury history, no problem.
THURSDAY I’m converting a Tudor gatehouse to luxury apartments. Do a special copy of the drawings for Amy, having replaced the word ‘luxury’ with ‘historic’.
FRIDAY Casual Friday. Spend all morning doing freehand sketches in my pyjamas.
SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Exoskeletal superstructuralism 1, Suspended Disbelief 0.
SUNDAY Spend the day conscience wrestling in the recliner over luxury and history. Decide what’s past is past and carry on with my design for a client’s basement Imax cinema.