By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

The importance of having a conscience, and the obligation to keep it properly landscaped

Ian Martin says à bientôt to Darcy Farquear’say

MONDAY. Create a 300,000m² ‘dream plaza’.

Wake up from afternoon nap and create an ordinary one.

TUESDAY. Afternoon tea with my old friend Isis de Cambray, the magic arborealist.

Pretentious landscaping remains a buoyant sector. The idle rich are never satisfied. Isis built her reputation on extravagant garden design, but now the global kleptocracy is keening after a new authenticity. ‘Poverty chic is my fresh jam!’ squeaks Isis, with no hint of irony. The hip end of the billionaire garden market now wants to capture the vitality of the dispossessed. Those marvellous peasant environments. The ‘excitement of having nothing’.

I recoil in disgust. Is this what she’s doing now? Turning misery into some fucking playground for bankers and celebrities? What next? Will she start designing contemporary plantations in blackface? She shrugs. ‘Please yourself. I thought you could use some moonlighting. Cash in hand. The idea was that you’d be my mysterious gnarled old English landscape architect, Austerity Brown…’
I maintain my look of disdain, but help myself to another scone.

WEDNESDAY. Lunch with architecture critic Darcy Farquear’say, who seems in a grave mood even after his fifth Dubai Wallclimber.
His preposterous dachshund Bauhau is oddly subdued too. Instead of yapping like some miniature pterodactyl every time someone says ‘Postmodernism’, he just gazes forlornly at His Master from within a slouchy yet elegant canine cocoon coat by Tommy Hilfiger.

Maybe he and Darcy have had a row. Two more Dubai Wallclimbers are slammed down on the table. ‘Make the most of it,’ snarls Darcy. ‘Good times don’t last forever.’ Bauhau gives a little whimper and, for the first time I can ever recall, Darcy invites the ‘little bastard’ to shut his ‘stupid whiney trap, you’re giving me bloody neuralgia…’

THURSDAY. Assemble some preliminary thought-collages for my Surrealist Wardrobe. It’s actually a museum, not a wardrobe. I’m calling it a wardrobe to challenge public perceptions of Surrealism, and museums.

Building elements will be deliberately unreconciled, so everything looks incongruous and sinister. Counterintuitively, there will actually be a ‘wardrobe’ theme to the museum throughout, with full-length mirrorglass and paintings on giant coathangers and all the shit you’re never going to look at anyway scrunched up and stuffed to the back. There will be a magnificent entrance - or WILL there?

The Surrealist Wardrobe is just what it’ll be called for the next two weeks. Then the project title will be words selected at random from The Concordance of Surrealism. For instance, from Monday 5 March it will be called the Urtastic Gourd. The following week, the Collide-O-Scope. Then the Ghastly Veil, the Rocking-Horse Ultimatum, the Meniscus of Emptiness, Poundlandia. Etc.

Yes, I’m going to be pushing some boundaries with this, as well as challenging public perceptions. These are basic criteria for European funding. Obviously I won’t be challenging my OWN perceptions. That would be madness. Someone’s got to keep a straight head.

FRIDAY. Spend the day as ‘Austerity Brown’, the celebrated poverty landscape architect.

By teatime I’ve knocked up an impressive Garden of Contemplation for a client living in the posh (Chinese) bit of Tibet. Five exquisitely unkempt acres of scrubland, with gorgeous little inhabited follies constructed from wooden pallets and corrugated tin. The centrepiece is a traditional English bonfire constructed from antique furniture and floorboards. There’s even a gutsy, earthy vegetable patch. Memo To Self: find out where to source growing vegetables.

SATURDAY. Slight nausea, and inflammation of the conscience. God, if I’m coming down with something I really hope it’s not poverty.

SUNDAY. ‘Media oversight’. Essentially, reading the papers in the recliner. I leave Darcy’s weekly essay in the Creative on Sunday until the end, as I’ve almost always heard it before in the pub.

Imagine my astonishment. The standfirst reads: ‘In his final piece as the Creative’s epic space correspondent, Darcy Farquear’say reflects on some of his most successful guesswork…’ Bloody hell. He’s OUT.

I skim through the cut-and-paste Darcy memories, held together loosely in a valedictory ragbag, to the end.

‘And so I say, a little tearfully I confess - à bientôt!’

Then my jaw drops a little further. There’s a postscript.

‘Starting next week in our Love Life section: Under One Woof, a lighthearted look at the built environment with our resident style dachshund BAUHAU…’ Darcy’s been laid off and is ghosting for his DOG? This will end badly…

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters