On wikitecture, petrified existentialism and a barking-mad icon
MONDAY. I'm preparing a lecture for the department of wikitecture, Memehampton University. It's one of the newer unis. The website makes it sound like Plato's grove. Leafy. Attracts young enquiring minds. And 'non-materialist', as it exists on the internet only.
I will be asking questions such as 'in the search for architectural truth, is it OK to use Google?' And 'can a built environment shaped by the human mindswarm ever be better than one designed by some numpty old tosser with a knighthood?' I will be answering yes to both, as this is exactly what they want to hear and the fee's not bad.
TUESDAY. My old friend Jean-Eric Nonmerci calls. Now he's won the Spritzer Prize he's planning to curate his own retrospective. Great, where? 'Do not enquire of the where' he says, a little brusquely and in French. 'For me, all wheres are alive and different. We must strive to understand whichever where we are in, then liberate and transcend that where. Only then are we able to create the there...'
You can see why they gave him the prize. Not only is he a bald structuralist in a leather jacket, he bangs on about 'the spirit of the place' in a slightly unhinged way. He's like a bouncer with a PhD. I suggest calling the exhibition Genius Loco. 'No. It shall be called Petrified Existentialism, Colon, Adventures In Experimental Space. Now if you will excuse me, I have a cultural moment to define in Belgium'. He hangs up.
Spritzer laureates tend to take themselves extremely seriously. I liked it better in the old days of the Perrier Award, when relatively unknown architects did stand-up at Edinburgh and made jokes about erectile dysfunction.
WEDNESDAY. Morning: design a perpendicular farm. Afternoon: design a diagonal bell tower. Evening: design a supine British Embassy.
THURSDAY. Jean-Eric calls again. 'Please do not interrupt. I have been using my massive brain to think about certain things, and to research myself. Why have I won the Spritzer? Because, I hope, I am specific. For me architects are like people in many respects. Some are wealthy, some are oblique a lot of the time, many are just clones. Pif! I am the - what would we say - opposite.'
He explains in great French detail how he will curate his retrospective not in an exhibition space 'like other exhibition spaces, designed for exhibitions' but in his own head. How then will he transmit his ideas to the public? 'Public. Paf! Publics are like other publics. I seek the specific. I will address individuals only, unravelling for them the odyssey of my work. Concentrating perhaps on the earlier buildings...' And how will these individuals be selected? 'I will simply choose a door that looks promising, then knock on it. An individual will open the door. Pof! I begin'.
A Structuralist's Witness now. Jean-Eric certainly is a random, yet specific, guy.
FRIDAY. Lunch with Darcy the architecture critic and his new companion, Bauhau the dachshund. Today, Bauhau is clad in thousands of tiny translucent glass panels set behind fake miniature louvres.
'Gorgeous or what?' Darcy asks the dog. They both know it's a rhetorical dilemma. 'Who's my lovely little Torre Agbar then?' Yip. 'You are'. Yip. 'Yes you are'. Yip. 'Oh yes you are'. Yip yip. I've had enough: 'Look, mate. If you're the Torre Agbar, you need to be VERTICAL, don't you?' I yank the little turd up by his collar. Yuf. Darcy and the rest of the pub are appalled. The 'apex' is apparently at the tail end.
SATURDAY. Bloody wikitecture. My lecture begins at 11 sharp, special voice-recognition software converting my speech into open source text. I get literally three words into my address before the electronic heckling starts.
'Ladies' and 'gentlemen' are both hyperlinked on the screen, and from various interactive simulcast lounges the wikitecture debate is launched. Disambiguations ('ladies: see women') are posited and refuted. A charrette is mooted on the history and/or purpose of gentlemen in architecture and/or the wikiverse. I'm even getting hate mail: 'Cite error: Invalid tag; no text was provided for refs named, you simpering bastard!'
That's it, I'm out. Ordinary terrestrial architecture may be infuriating, but at least it's slow.
SUNDAY. Suspend life/work balance in the recliner.