The life, times and misdemeanours of Augustus Pugin, in the style of fossilised music hall
Ian Martin says hello to Bauhau the dachshund
MONDAY. A day of watercolours. Particularly proud of a winter landscape I shall call Carbon Footprints In The Snow, in order to give it added emotional value.
TUESDAY. In the morning, I’m struck by a quote from eminent academic Manny Lauda. He criticises young architects entering competitions, claiming that they ‘seem to think ordinary life processes are too boring to merit attention’.
He’s right. In the afternoon, I redesign the human digestive tract.
WEDNESDAY. Lunch with Bauhau the dachshund, the new architecture correspondent of the Creative on Sunday.
Bauhau seems to have grown in confidence, if not in stature, since taking over the role from his companion, the forlorn and neurotic scribbler Darcy Farquear’say.
Of course Darcy’s actually ghosting the stuff - trivial, skittish takes on the built environment tagged Ground Zero - but for him, anonymity is the ultimate humiliation. On the picture byline it’s not his but Bauhau’s optimistic face cocked inquisitively at the reader.
Still, every cloud. Freed from the yoke of sneery cynicism, Darcy’s writing style as a dachshund is a revelation. His tone is celebratory and generous I tell him, although half a second too late I realise I’m talking to the dog. Darcy flares. ‘Yeah, brilliant work Bauhau, you little shit. How’s the novel coming along? Oh, I forgot, you CAN’T TYPE BECAUSE YOU’RE JUST A STUPID DOG!’
A waiter gently asks Darcy to keep his voice down. Diners do not want to hear aggressive and bullying behaviour towards dachshunds. Bauhau calmly looks up at me from his fancy offal starters. He has a strange glint in his eye, as if to say ‘yeah, maybe I AM writing a novel’. Creepy.
THURSDAY. To the West End for the preview of an exciting new musical about crazy, sexy Victorian architect Augustus Pugin, called Steampuncular!
In common with most bourgeois commentators, I make it a rule never to see any theatre production with an exclamation mark at the end. Steampuncular! is the exception that proves the rule, and a reminder not to break it again in the future.
On paper, the show is brilliant. Pugin the Gothic colossus re-imagined as Sid Vicious in a top hat and waistcoat, cursing and gobbing his way through the salons of 19th-century London, tearing up the architectural playbook, getting pissed and shagging everybody. Russell Brand is an inspired choice for the lead role, and Adele looks and sounds fantastic as the Queen.
But the whole thing relies far too heavily on gimmicks. From the special effects - at one point Pugin flies above the rooftops of Rome destroying Classical buildings with a laser cannon - to the tedious music hall-style songs.
The sight of Pugin and chorus prancing across the stage, all Cockney braces and hobnailed boots, singing ‘Don’t Call Me Mad Or Bad, I’m Just A Medieval Genius’ convinced me not to return after the interval drinks.
FRIDAY. Redesign Northern Ireland, giving it a ‘nuanced, heritage-y, ethnic’ feel.
SATURDAY. Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Stylistic Interregnum 4, Festival of Britain Retro Jubilee 2.
SUNDAY. Newspaper review in the recliner. Bauhau’s latest dispatch from Ground Zero is an impressive experiential hymn to something called ‘Splashion’, formerly Bradford town square.
It’s a massive pool with complicated fountains and seems to be a popular success. There are convincing pictures of Bauhau yapping gaily through the shallow water in what looks like an haute couture wetsuit.
As an architecture critic ‘he’ loves it.
If Darcy had written this piece, he’d be disdaining the whole enterprise as a vulgar bid for tourist cash. He’d be moaning about the ephemeral nature of visitor attractions and pitying Bradford for its loss of dignity. He’d also be chucking in phrases such as ‘haptic imperative’ and ‘urban melisma’. As a dachshund, he’s so much more agreeable.
‘Woof! A large dead public space transformed into a fun day out with the kids? Woof! YES! Let the metropolitan elite whine like circular saws, who cares, Splashion’s all about a communal sense of civic pride and I for one won’t be relieving myself in it. Apart from anything else, it would be antisocial and might result in a fine for the apparently still-unnamed individual who looks after me! Woof!’
Bauhau also seems to be in favour of the Olympics. And Damien Hirst’s eco-town. And the Prince of Wales. I wonder if he knows what he’s doing?