Public subsidy for privatised excellence – oh, what a Big Clever Society we are turning into
Ian Martin applies to have Stephen Fry listed
Monday. Once again I come away from the Annual Epic Space Awards with nothing. Every single category was won by Stephen Fry, as usual.
He won Best Architectural Writing for a tweet posted last year: ‘Yummy, yummy Dunstanburgh Castle. Quite the loveliest of ruins, plus nice walk along beach. *sigh* Later, tweeps!’
Never mind my thousands of bloody words on The Metropolis As An Urban Mind-Farm. Bastard. One consolation is knowing that Darcy Farquear’say, architecture correspondent of the Creative on Sunday, is even more incensed.
Darcy was convinced his five-page spread on Cockbun + Melisma’s ‘Shonky House’ in Dalston would bag him Best Feature: ‘a torqued baton of freshly-baked radicalism still warm from the mind-oven of Britain’s most exciting hipster collective… effortless visual hyperbole, from the Klimt pebbledashing to an ironic security fence… a defiant snot-nosed punk of a building, it stands pissed and gobby amid the square drabness of its terrified neighbours, brandishing its planning permission like an Asbo…’
Poor Darcy. Fry won that category for a ghosted piece in Radio Times on My Favourite Teashops, with pictures of him eating cake and grinning in different clothes.
Best New Media Award went to ‘MIP, an architectural perambulation app’; it alerts the user to anything Mentioned In Pevsner with a familiar voice whispering ‘gosh!’ ‘mehhh!’ or ‘Lordy!’ Best TV Documentary was Man & Van, a gently humorous look at Vanbrugh’s work in which Stephen explores the English Baroque in a white Transit van with his top off, trying to understand how utterly incredible something like this would have been in the 18th century.
And, infuriatingly, Fry won Architectural Scoop of the Year for his discovery of Modernism.
Tuesday. Darcy calls, moaning about never winning anything. He blames the vulgar, populist nature of contemporary architecture and promises to give it a proper going-over in print at the weekend. Yeah, look upon his words ye mighty, and despair.
Wednesday. I’ve been invited to curate London for a month, in the run-up to the Olympics. Thinking about putting giant ‘fun wigs’ on some landmark buildings to amuse the tourists.
Thursday. Lunch with Dusty Penhaligon the conservactionist. He’s convinced there’s a ‘classification war’ on at the moment and blames the new conspiratorial listings system.
‘Basically, the middle classifications are being used by the real power – the money men, the Establishment, the vested interests – to crush the working classifications, you dig?’
His thesis: the current Tory government, having brushed the remaining crumbs of LibDem from its tucked-in napkin, is remaking the nation’s heritage in its own image. The presumption therefore is in favour of listing private buildings, as they’re Tory, and of NOT listing public buildings, as they’re Labour.
‘Don’t start,’ says Dusty, before I’ve even started. ‘It’s the exceptions that prove the rule, and therefore my point. That shower of shit in the Cabinet are very keen to leave public buildings unlisted. That way they can be knocked down and the site redacted from public ownership. Replaced with some born-again, evangelical retail development. The government wants to remove any uncomfortable reminders of the way things were, before we stopped supporting British industry and instead put our trust in 25-year-old yuppies with the moral scruples of fucking E. coli…’
We agree that things would be simpler if we listed people instead of buildings. Stephen Fry’s a national treasure, why don’t we just list HIM? Someone from English Heritage could just follow him round making sure everywhere he stops for a cup of tea gets a blue plaque.
Friday. Sketch out proposals for an exciting new ‘elite private college’. Ecologists will love it, as it involves minimal design and building.
Some of the finest liberal minds in the world will teach there and, more importantly, demonstrate their commitment to privatised excellence by becoming shareholders. I’m designing the luxury reception area, where wealthy parents can chill out and browse the prospectus.
Meanwhile, much of the teaching space will be ‘borrowed’ from a public sector university, reducing footprint yet increasing windfall.
Saturday. My Wigged London Buildings project is taking shape. A Beatles ‘moptop’ on Centre Point, a Jedward flame for the Gherkin, ringlets for St Paul’s.
Sunday. Old media research in the recliner. Oh ha ha ha. Look at the headline they’ve slapped on Darcy’s rant about contemporary design. ‘Darcy Farquear’say asks: “Architecture – how much dumbed-downer can it get?”’ I bet that smarts.