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The ventilation system is the message

Ian Martin is full of sparkling Christmas anticipation

MONDAY I love this time of year. Full of hope. Inspiring. Makes you really want to get out there and, I don’t know, change the world.
Not change, obviously, let’s be realistic. Remodel the world perhaps. Give it a do-over. Develop new dialogues between elements. Invert ‘tradition’. Open up the world to new circulation patterns and ways of living. Reconnect it. Reconfigure it for digital platforms. Maximise its offer. I hate this time of year.

TUESDAY I can’t stay negative for long. The run-up to Christmas always fills me with sparkling anticipation. And this year the excitement’s been ramped up to a dangerously high level, as I’m waiting for some technical drawings to come back: my experimental, prototype ventilation system.

The drawings are well overdue. Of course the international subcontractor is knocking them out for a very competitive fee, but that doesn’t excuse sloth, does it? What’s the point of outsourcing to a software battery farm in the Philippines (technically eight hours ahead, remember) if the stuff turns up late?

I should have punted it out to that open prison in Indonesia with the commercial subsidiary. Yes, there are armed guards supervising the technical drawing wing, but at least they can hit a bloody deadline.

WEDNESDAY At last the blueprints for my ventilation system have arrived. Now to chisel off all references to ‘Manila Top Drawers’ and introduce some authentic flourishes, thus making it entirely my own work.

I start in the customary way by composing an exquisite design statement, making sure it is full of pretension, lies, and itself. It’s always easiest if you start by imagining the near future, giving that near future a name, then explaining how your design will meet the challenges of that near future with profitable aplomb. Here goes:

‘As the world moves into what some notional commentators are calling the Post-Visual Age, should we be fearful or optimistic? What IS certain is that it poses some fascinating questions. For instance, what does “post-visual” mean? How will it affect our lives, and the lives of our children’s children? What will our shared spatial experience be like in the near future?’

Yeah, getting there, but I think it needs to be more dramatic so I add ‘If there IS a near future…’ Suddenly realise in an epiphanic 3D moment that I’m IN the near future, and already walking to the pub.

THURSDAY Continue with my design statement. ‘Public space has already entered the Post-Visual Age. Consumers of architecture can no longer see the buildings or the spaces between them. Every exposed square inch of public space has been ruthlessly converted to square centimetres and then slathered in advertising…’

Yeah, good. Let’s stir up some righteous anger. ‘This situation is clearly unsustainable, which is why it behoves spatial animateurs such as yours truly to find the next frackable layer of the built environment and then shape that built environment accordingly…’

FRIDAY All done. The drawings look great, I’ve added some shaky pencil scratchings and put the technical drawings through an ‘antique’ filter. Over lunch I explain everything to my fixer, Rock Steady Eddie.

The simplest way to monetise ventilation and air-conditioning systems, I tell him, is to redefine the volumes of air within them as marketable bundles of pixellated space. Initially, advertisers might be invited to imprint their logo on aerobic bacteria which would then be broadcast invisibly into the breatheable public realm.

Eddie finishes his lunch. I push on as he looks solemnly at my chips, eating them. Sponsored bacteria would infiltrate consumers at a biological level, creating a market pathway from lungs to brain. Further down the line, sponsored aerobic bacteria could carry nano-biological advertising slogans, or even looped micro-video clips planted firmly in the consumer’s subconscious.
He looks thoughtful, and chipful.

SATURDAY Eddie rings. ‘Look, I love the idea of contagious advertising. Who wouldn’t? But we need a name. Something…’ Contagious? ‘No, catchy’.

SUNDAY Brainstorm in the recliner. You can’t stop progress. Monetised ventilation systems are inevitable. Morally it’s fine too; someone’s bound to do it and it might as well be me.

I take a break from thinking and switch on the telly. Christmas ads all over it like Legionnaires’ Disease. Wait, that’s it. I ring Eddie. This new system: let’s call it ADVENT.

I can hear Eddie cackling. ‘Ker-chingle bells, son…’

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