Ten per cent less is ten per cent more for Architecture’s Big Society
Monday. I have been invited by The Coalition to help massage architecture downwards over the next five years. This is easier, though no more pleasant, than it sounds. Architecture is in one of its resting periods at the moment. Between jobs. Reconnecting, after so many years of paid drudgery, to the worlds of watercolour and arborealism. Architecture is self medicating, and a bit woozy. It’s very massageable. Our new government Action Committee on Architecture – we’ve nicknamed ourselves The Decimators – has been asked to reduce emissions of epic space by 10 per cent a year. We wanted to call ourselves The Unthinkables, in reference to the kind of thoughts we’d be thinking, but that’s already been taken by a group of poverty wonks working out of the Treasury. As architecture is on course to reduce its output massively this year anyway, we spend most of the day arguing about our mission statement. Should it be ‘Rethinking The Built Environment’ or ‘Rebuilding The Thought Environment’? In the end we decide to do without a mission statement altogether, thus demonstrating motivational prudence and economy of letterhead.
Tuesday. Right. Today the Action Committee gets down to some real work. Agenda Item 1: the refenestration of civil society. If there’s one thing The Coalition has taught us it’s that anything can be utterly changed by a radical new approachto everything. Old-fashioned ideas about glass for instance. ‘Working glass’ seems outdated now that so much of it is only part time. ‘Middle glass’ has unpleasant associations with the lying shit Blair. ‘Upper glass’ is largely irrelevant as all the expensive stuff is happening abroad anyway. We decide to rebrand Britain the Glassless Society and resolve to let architects know, so they can start redesigning accordingly.
Wednesday. Busy day for the Committee. The Coalition wants soundbites for its launch of a blueprint for Britain. After a Big Society Lunch, we agree on the following:
• Architectural ‘wow factor’ to be superseded by more cost-effective ‘meh factor’.
• Point out that ‘civic’ is a palindrome, so intrinsically flexible.
• Encourage fairer planning laws by getting local developers to set up their own neighbourhood planning systems.
• Put the prefix ‘nano’ in front of everything to reduce it.
• Make ‘Big Society’ sound cooler by spreading the word on Twitter that it’s Mafia slang for ‘gangster-driven private-sector philanthropy’.
Thursday. Lunch with my old mate Beansy, the nanofuturologist, who’s looking forward to the annual Technologies of Emerging Architecture symposium. He’s more excited than usual, though. Beansy has been working secretly on his ‘Transductor’ for years now, and will unveil it at this year’s TEA event. Indeed, we both plan to travel there in it. If all goes to plan, we’ll step into the Transductor in Hammersmith and materialise seconds later in a Los Angeles car park. The device ingeniously combines the emerging sciences of quantum entanglement and plasmic resonance. This sounds impressive, though I notice he orders another bottle of wine whenever I ask him about the results of the ‘trial runs’ he has presumably undertaken. ‘Ach, don’t worry,’ he mumbles. ‘It’s alternative physics. All the paperwork is in order.’ I say ‘But…’ and he orders pudding.
Friday. To a press conference at the Department of Entertainment. Centre stage is the enigmatic minister for architecture, tourism, tax modelling and apiculture, the Right Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown. He has summoned the media to explain The Coalition’s new policy on listing. It’s a breathtaking departure from the regime of his predecessor, Dorothy Bungham, who apparently didn’t even HAVE a policy. The world of late 20th-century retail-themed conservation has been rocked by the news that Milton Keynes shopping centre is now listed. ‘Post-war buildings can, more than others, divide opinion,’ says Upmother-Brown, as if to himself. ‘Let me demonstrate with my bees…’ He whistles softly and his private bee swarm glides in, forming a consensus in front of his face. They silently divide into two groups, ‘fans of modernism, critics of modernism, do you see? Now watch this…’ He gives a little whistle. The bees form a perfect globe and fly out of the room. ‘Now, any questions?’
Saturday. Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Conservative Driberalism 4, Progressive Auto-Consumption 0.
Sunday. Create a ‘Big High Society’ in the recliner by imagining privatised local planners in top hats. twitter.com/IanMartin