Getting to know the new wave of green Tory architects
She smiles grimly inside her balaclava and burps, which I take to mean they’ve planted a landmine
MONDAY. It’s panic stations aboard the SS Titanic Architecture. Look out - we’re heading straight for a massive iceberg! Of austerity!
Oh dear, and it was all going so well. Titanic architecture was the most sumptuous vessel of dreams ever launched. Enough luxury to make you seasick. Magnificent, unsinkable. Only now do we discover that the whole capricious enterprise was inappropriately riveted! By the wrong things!
At last it all makes sense. That flimsy, artfully crumpled architectural style we learned to love turns out to be just a metaphor! For itself! What to do? The most important thing is to remain calm. No more exclamation mark couplets for a start. But what a challenge. Architects, used to lecturing everyone on how to live, now inhabit a changed reality involving no clients and a casual public indifference to architecture.
The options are limited. Some brave souls will remain on deck, reconfiguring the Titanic’s demountable seating. Others, more astute, will attempt a pre-emptive reverse lay-off, working towards a Decarbonised Britain by deliberately not building anything. Option Three - new teams of public sector architects, engineers and planners, driving community development, creating social housing with Keynesian levels of craftsmanship - is too grisly to contemplate.
I’m going with Option Four. Denial. As long as you carry on designing buildings with karaoke booths or Pyrex lobbies or walls made of illuminated fog, you can just factor in a low strike rate and blame the recession. Oh look, time to get into the lifeboats. If I don’t see you later, be lucky. As Celine Dion says: near, far, wherever you are, I believe that the heart does go on.
TUESDAY. All day trying to get Michelle Bloody Obama on the phone. Busy. God, how long can an inauguration last, even with adverts?
She was supposed to get back to me a week ago with comments on the proposed White House do-up. Each member of the First Family has been assigned an individual ‘interiors profile’ by Wap Biddly Pish, my envisioning consultancy. This is then tracked in special software as a sort of complicated aura. A combination of GPS mapping and cultural thermography allows us to see the individuals interacting with their environment and with each other. In this way, we can build up all sorts of graphic interface matrices, infer the type of interior design required, call it ‘iTecture’ and charge a fortune.
Unfortunately the only people who have lost interest in the gig more quickly than Michelle are WBP co-directors Darcy and Tron. If they’re not flopping about gazing at each other they’re ‘walking the dog’, which I suspect may be some sort of slang.
WEDNESDAY. My activist friend Amy Blackwater’s bought a square metre of land near Heathrow, in the posh end of a field between Emma Thompson and a baronet.
Each stubborn little plot has been planted with a sapling of hope. Except Amy’s, which has been planted with a landmine. I tell her I still can’t quite believe the government’s approved a third runway. She smiles grimly inside her balaclava and burps, which I take to mean they’ve planted a landmine too.
THURSDAY. Spend an evening ‘getting to know’ members of the campaign group Architects for a Conservative Future. On the one hand ugh, on the other a general election is visible on the horizon. As a Tory government adviser I would have many valuable insights plus VAT.
Blue is the new green. Lots of chit-chat about smart grids, painting our roofs white and basically leaving everything to the self-regulating market ecology. There’s clearly been a massive political shift in the profession. Architects in knitted clothes who talked for minutes on end about passive solar heating with their eyes shut always used to be Liberal Democrats. Or, at a push, Greens. Now they’re all tax-cutting libertarians who
believe the country’s in the grip of a carbon crimewave.
Suddenly the architect with a social conscience who ‘accidentally’ gets rich looks like an anachronism. Perhaps the days of the scarlet-trousered philanthropist are over.
FRIDAY. Design a cluster of giant apartment blocks for a site near London Bridge. They look a bit like tottering towers of toilet rolls. The scheme won’t get planning permission, but when it doesn’t I’ve got my less controversial ‘wobbling beer cans’ ready…
SATURDAY. Self-build, with lots of carbs.
SUNDAY. Reading in the recliner.
A ‘major new policy document on social mobility’ turns out to be guffy drivel about the joys of cycling.