It’s time for architects to roll up their sleeves, and their trouser legs
Ian Martin goes masonic
Monday. I have been asked to reimagine absolutely everything, as part of an ambitious but tentative government initiative. The working title is Britain Plus. Or possibly ‘Britain+’ in a jaunty font – it’s still being focus-grouped.
Britain Plus aims to change the way we think about the built environment by adjusting our ‘cultural minds’. It really is that simple. For example, this country is awash with premium architectural content. Over the next year I’m proposing that this content be fast-tracked to World Class Architecture status. How? By putting all British buildings of merit on the BRITAIN PLUS TR AIN, that’s how, details to follow. Other key points in my Britain Plus Prospectus for Change:
• Separate the definition of architecture into two parts: ‘archi’ meaning ‘professional interest group’ and ‘tecture’ meaning ‘disposable asset’.
• New emphasis on getting urban syntax right by always running it through spellcheck.
• Make sure our maritime heritage is properly valued, in dubloons and pieces of eight.
• Upside-down maps of Britain to encourage the Hebrides and the Isle of Wight to rethink each other.
• St Paul’s Cathedral to go ‘high definition’ in time for the Olympics.
• Get Jonathan Meades to sneer at NON-British architecture for a change, in his ‘withering’ glasses.
• Identify valuable parts of Britain’s heritage with a red dot in the corner and a Britain Plus sticker.
Tuesday. Invited to ‘recession-proof’ myself by joining the Freemasons (London Architectural Division).
Wednesday. I’m IN. The dress code swung it for me in the end. I do look fantastic in a gothic apron.
Thursday. My Probationary Member’s Pack arrives. It includes a ‘Freemasonic Screwdriver’ to get you through locked doors. Apparently if you see a planner with one, you show him yours and do a secret handshake. This is called Lodging A Planning Application.
Friday. To the North East to discuss modifications to my landmark bridge, a 190mhigh megastructure that will arch majestically over the River Shit in the North East. I say ‘bridge’. It’s officially called a ‘river crossing’ for strategic reasons and features a pair of intertwined pylons, set in the middle of the water, from which the deck is suspended. It has already been nicknamed The Loophole, as it looks very much like something designed to be ‘iconic’ in order to secure funding. Theoretically The Loophole will ease potential traffic between a derelict shipyard on one side and a redundant engineering works on the other. But more importantly it will be a distinctive new symbol for the city of Beerhandle, which is currently slumped in a depression on both sides of the river watching Sky Sports. It will in a very real sense raise Beerhandle’s profile and, via magical realism, ‘increase the potential for greater prosperity’. Unfortunately the finances have suddenly become sketchy. We need to reduce costs. After some discussion we decide to scrap the bridge part and just keep the iconic Loophole bit sticking up from the river. Then when the prosperity and raised profile finally arrive in Beerhandle we can retrofit the actual crossing.
Saturday. A game-changing five-a-zeitgeist rhetorical football match between Parametric Wanderers and IKEA.
Under the haughty captaincy of Franz Kobbelmensch the Parametrics had a good first half, deploying sound management rhetoric ‘to deliver all the components for a high-performance contemporary life process’. Playing IKEA at their own game paid off, with early goals from key players Spine and Nurb and a breathtaking late header from new signing Subdiv.
IKEA struck back in the second half, levelling the score with goals from Socker, Klippan and Ektorp-Murbo. But corporate momentum was with the IKEA team, who played their own rhetorical game right back at the Parametrics, and raised it by promising ‘to deliver all the components for a high-performance contemporary life process BUT LOOK: new lower prices, same great quality!’
This extra pressure from the 2009 Champions of the Euro Minimalist League was enough to unsettle the Parametrics, who conceded a rhetorical own goal after they took their eyes off the metaball, pronounced it ‘meatball’ by mistake and then collapsed into a non-pluralist defensive heap.
IKEA may have won the match but the real winners are ordinary people, for whom pretentious architectural bullshit is now a rhetorical reality. Summary: the age of Form Follows Function is over, the epoch of Substance Follows Style begins.