Design for your friends, redesign for your friends’ friends
Ian Martin designs the new Qatar Embassy
MONDAY. Get the week off to a cracking start by redefining architecture as a ‘built performance art’.
My glow fades quickly however when the phrase is widely ridiculed on Twitter by architecture critics. You know the type – the ‘pompous shiterati’. Cliquey clacking snobgoblins whose favourite British architects all live abroad. Their motto: ‘If you can’t say anything niche, don’t say anything at all’. Oh look, I’ve discovered a fabulous house in an illustrious postcode. It’s only lived in six days a month. The interior looks like an interrogation centre, outside everything’s cleverly hidden behind a tree or something.
An hour later the critics’ disdain is getting retweeted. But inevitably the phrase ‘built performance art’ is soon being forwarded without irony. By lunchtime everyone agrees that architecture has always been a built performance art. By mid-evening everyone’s already tired of people blogging about it.
By bedtime we’re back to where we were in the morning – people dismissive and critical. ‘This so-called public debate about architecture’, I bitterly affirm with a sad emoticon, ‘is just an inconsequential meme klatch’.
TUESDAY. Result. A good-looking young Finnish man in a 1940s haircut has commissioned me to design a Meme Klatch Pavilion for a cultural expo he’s pop-upping next month.
WEDNESDAY. Sketch out my design for the new Qatar Embassy. I’ve been given carte blanche. It’s in London so obviously it won’t need any sort of planning permission, and I intend to make it especially iconoclastic, with lasers on the top.
The building must look powerful and prestigious – of course, it is representing a wealth-saturated monarchy. But this is not about money and influence, and I resent the hurtful suggestion that it might be. When has architecture ever been about money and influence?
Some initial ideas: should look like an unripened blackberry, or an uncut diamond, whichever’s more expensive to build. An entire floor given over to a casino or ‘chancery’. A couple of exotic gardens. No, make that three. Tell you what, ‘elevate’ them. Five elevated gardens. OK, make it six. A fetishistic security cordon crafted by whichever lofty Dutch artist couple has been pushing the boundaries of perception this month. Make sure all windows reflect ‘democracy, grace, openness and transparency’.
THURSDAY. Rock Steady Eddie the fixer wants us to cash in on the £9 billion ‘rail bonanza’.
‘Find the gap. Find the gap…’ he intones, convinced there’s a design opportunity that everyone else has overlooked. We narrow it down to converting Wigan station into The World of Thomas the Tank Engine and Dudes, and a new generation of first-class waiting rooms.
FRIDAY. Lunch with my old friend the Prince of Wales. He’s down in the dumps, as usual. I don’t know why he lets
it all get to him. So what if tiresome, theatrical republicans moan about his pocket money going up by 11 per cent? Just ignore them – he always does – and they’ll shut up for another year.
Honestly, he couldn’t be any more thin-skinned without looking like something by Damien Hirst. Still, every cloud. It does mean I get handsomely rewarded for carrying out his annual ‘brand MOT’. This year I’m pretty much telling him to forget his core constituency of poor working-class people. They’ll cheer him on whether he supports ‘British business, investment and development goals’ or not.
Where he is sorely missed is on the architectural stage. It’s been a while since he said anything controversial. I suggest he publicly calls The Shard ‘late capitalism’s scaly, taloned middle finger’. I mean, he clearly loathes it.
He goes quiet and notices some fluff on his sleeve. Eventually he admits that criticising The Shard would be awkward, as it’s associated with a wealth-saturated monarchy. But that’s even better, I tell him. It’ll make the few footling million he and Snorty cost us in hunting valets, homeopaths, organic counsellors and so on look utterly irrelevant.
Alas, he regrets that he can’t get involved in The Shard controversy as he needs ‘one’s friends overseas’ to appoint the right architects for some schemes for luxury-flat schemes in London. ‘So they look at least a bit Georgiany…’ Fine. I’ll have another think.
SATURDAY. I suggest Charles updates himself instead with a new uniform for the armed Royal Brand Retinue. Forest-green tweed jacket, kilt, fishing hat. Multicultural, dignified, casual. He loves it. I despair.
SUNDAY. Autoklatch in the recliner.