The deserving and the undeserving moderately well-off
Ian Martin remodels The Entire Notion Of Social Housing
MONDAY. Sketch out some ideas for the redesign of Japan’s national stadium, using the latest thought-to-shape app, ‘Fast Mental’. It’s incredibly responsive. By lunchtime I’ve shape-thought a fossilised dolphin, a melting pocket-watch, a landscaped vulva, an unplumbed jacuzzi, a ball of glittering yarn, half a spermatazoon, a discus of light, cupped giant hands made of digital carbon and a translucent pancake filled with brightly coloured metaphors. Retire for an afternoon nap with huge sense of achievement and a terrible headache.
TUESDAY. In the morning I moot a transcendent footbridge. In the afternoon I dream up a zero-helium mosque based on colour-coded sexy mathematics. Memo To Self: turn off thought-to-shape software after lunch.
WEDNESDAY. I’m impressed with the ambition of my latest architectural remodelling commission. I will be architecturally remodelling The Entire Notion Of Social Housing for a consortium of Tory councils. Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham have formed a terrifying mega-borough of compassionate conservatism, and now it means business. This might be unwelcome news for anyone affected by issues of compassionate conservatism, but there are great opportunities for others.
My client contact Tish briefs me. ‘Yah, imagine us as a totes new like municipal hipster-fogey developer collective? We are keen as moutarde to revive the notion of council housing but sans that boring old baggage all held together with builder’s tape and string. I mean really: poor people? Flat caps and cigarettes, tripe and onions and whatnot? Merci, non!’
This new Transformer mega-borough certainly sounds powerful. A political ‘Optimus Prime’ representing the middle class, a community demonstrably marginalised by decades of derision and income tax. Now it’s payback time: the middle class getting council homes built for THEM. My task is to make this proposition seem somehow unridiculous.
Tish isn’t helping. ‘Thing is, the housing we own’s worth two and a half BILL. Sadly, the inhabitants aren’t. At all. Look, we’re doing our best to create a culch of ambish in our boroughs. Mixed and vibrant communities, absolument. People with interesting jobs and spendy clothes willkommen, bienvenue, welcome. The homelesses clogging up the system need to be disappeared somewhere more in keeps with their circs, eg Middlesbrough, stat. But peeps gonna hate. That’s why we need new rhetty infro…’ New WHAT? ‘New rhetorical infrastructure. Laters…’
THURSDAY. Work up new rhetty infro for Megaborough Deathstar. It’s a matter of balance, I think.
I agree ‘council housing’ sounds as old-fashioned as ‘National Health Service’. But there’s a reversible principle at stake here. Gentrification is a good thing. It accounts for roughly 92 per cent of architects’ fee income, architects are morally beyond reproach, end of story. It’s what Tish would call ‘no-brains’. Alas, in the sneery corners of our social networks, gentrification is simply a long and ugly word. The challenge here is to yoke the gilded carriage of gentrification to the sturdy ox of compassion. Yes. Turn the whole thing into a righteous CAMPAIGN. The rich are OK, they own several homes. The poor are OK, they’re the ones hogging all the council housing. The hard-working middle earners, they’re the real victims here. That’s it! A campaign to build DECENT HARD-WORKING CLASS HOUSING.
FRIDAY. Tish ‘v pleased’ with the hard-working class homes idea. A mega-borough marketing committee has already agreed to replace the corporate mission statement ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ with ‘Hard-Working For You’.
SATURDAY. Non-hard-working day.
SUNDAY. Newspaper review in the recliner. Gratifyingly, class warfare is polarising opinion. This makes it easier to identify those in favour of luxury apartments for the deserving middle, as they’re all on one side of the argument. For instance, a group of Liberal Democrat MPs is calling for a 21st century successor to the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1885. Echoing Lord Salisbury, they talk of ‘thousands of families living on the artisan bread line in non-luxury dwellings where they sleep, eat, multitask and die…
‘It is difficult to exaggerate the misery which such conditions of life must cause, particularly with all the luxury lifestyles on television and elsewhere. The depression of body and mind which they create is an almost insuperable obstacle to the action of any elevating or refining agencies. That’s why we need a Housing of the Hard-Working Classes Act 2013, thanks for listening, means a lot, yeah?’