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My thrilling dream journey with Claude, the Globitectübercelebrauteur

Ian Martin gets lyrical on his statements

Monday. Lunch with my old friend Claude Videur. He used to be just another internationally famous architect. The sort who ‘thinks that little bit further’ and therefore ‘charges that little bit more’.

His status over the last decade has steadily increased to the point now where he’s officially allowed by the International Architects Network to use their coveted nine-syllable multi-lingual compound noun. Yeah, Claude is now a Globitectübercelebrauteur.

He’s in Tamworth this week to share his thoughts about the pavilion he will create in a park here. Every year the prestigious S-Bend Gallery commissions a wealthy architect to design a temporary structure for the summer. It has to be experimental, with the sort of vivid form that photographs well. But it also needs to be practical. The pavilion will host a series of important, tangential ‘events’ as well as certain cultural ‘occurrences’ and must therefore accommodate hundreds of earnest people in angular haircuts quaffing prosecco and sneering at one another.

Tuesday. Site visit with Claude to see how the pavilion’s coming along. The project manager’s a bit concerned. They’re several weeks into construction. Renderings of the finished building have been circulating for ages. Yet still no nickname.

It’s not as if the pavilion’s dull. The whole thing’s bright red. It’s got bold geometric forms and a freestanding 12m wall that slopes at a really funny angle. It looks a bit like a contemporary church being blown to bits by a fierce hurricane of secular wrath.

We all think in silence. Suddenly it comes to me. What about calling it the Vermilion Pavilion? After a minute’s deep thought Claude does one of his big Gallic chuckles, slaps everyone on the back very thoroughly and demands lunch.

Wednesday. Claude has decided to spend the day archiving his subconscious. ‘By retracing the mental steps I took when first thinking about this pavilion I hope to retrofit my design statement with some sort of dream journey.’ I leave him to it. On any dream journey, two’s a crowd.

Thursday. Claude rings. Would I take a look at his Statement of Design Genesis? He’s worried it’s not pretentious enough. Of course I agree, but reassure him. Has he EVER written one of these things that hasn’t been so far up itself it’s punctured itself in the kidneys?

Friday. Oh bollocks. Claude has brought me his architect’s statement personally, which means he’ll be watching me read it. Memo To Self: nod, look thoughtful, don’t laugh.

‘Architecture is a receptacle for sensations. It is as if, unbidden, a cosmic pedal bin has appeared to receive our emotional responses to an unsolicited wish. Of course, as the pedal bin is a metaphor for architecture it also CREATES and TRANSMITS sensations. Let’s leave the pedal bin for now. We may come back to it later. For me, the Vermilion Pavilion commission was an opportunity to discover little silicate flecks of emotion in the dream pavement of my mind-journey. Oriental memories float to the surface. Blup. Blup. What’s in a park? Grass. Mm. Green grass as a backdrop then, say. Yes, that would work. Trees too. Leafy trees. A Green Perspective. Ooh, hello - what’s happening now? The mind-me seems to be floating in the air, gently carried here and there on the zephyr of my own mind-rhetoric. What can I do here that I can’t do somewhere else? Bah! I must discard all trivial temptations: too so-what! Too ugh! Too preposterous! Not mysterious enough! Then emotion parachutes in, on billowing silken word-desire, hands me a key marked GENIUS and the mind-gates open: SIZZLE… comparing, compering, complementary. RED! Red is complementary (NB to green that is). Stupid English Summer. Roof essential. The Sun. STARE AT THE SUN… fuck, ouch! Don’t do that again. FILTER THE SUN. Yes. Red as a conductor. Hold very tight please, next stop Cockney Town… RED SUN… a haze of red… BLURRED… eyes closed… zzz… whaaa? Must have NODDED OFF… wait! RED EXPLODING AGAINST GREEN… green against red… THE MYTH OF RED… is there a myth of red, or have I just made that up? Roses… martyrs’ blood… come back to this later… landscaped infiltrations… RED NIGHT TO GREEN BISHOP’S… whatever… PEDAL BIN! The seed is planted in the mind-growbag. Let architecture flourish!’

Saturday. Claude duly hailed as a literary and architectural hero. His phone is now clogged with offers of dream jobs.

Sunday. Try dreaming a pavilion in the recliner, but go too far and end up with oblivion.

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