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Landscape Architecture RIP – it’s time for some Magic Arborealism

Ian Martin goes back to his hippie roots

Monday An old hippie friend, Isis de Cambray, calls. Do I fancy lunch? God, I haven’t seen her for years.

It must have been before that lying shit Blair took over, because everyone was worried about the danger posed to aeroplanes by the new internet thing. She was at a conference somewhere in Wales as Keynote Speaker of Dreams, explaining how passenger flights could be guided by spiritual traffic controllers and how cyberspace was located on the astral plane.

She’s the sort of person you’d call ‘kooky’ if you didn’t like them. But you know what, I’m sick of well thought-through despair. Let’s have some brainless optimism for a change.

Tuesday. Pub lunch with Isis. Lovely weather. You can see why all our baffled, underemployed creatives are switching from architecture to horticulture. Extended gardening leave has rarely seemed more attractive.

Isis is now a trim pensioner, ageless. She still smells of patchouli, joss sticks, Old Holborn and hash; her demeanour remains elemental and stoned. But her career trajectory is an object lesson in agility.

Isis gained notoriety in Swinging London as a promiscuous polymath. She was one of the last women to see Le Corbusier alive below his Modulor nexus. She was arrested on a drugs bust while harbouring confectionery at a Rolling Stones aftershow. She single-handedly redesigned Issigonis’ Mini. In the ’70s, Isis was in the vanguard of the conservactionist movement, leading the famous Spacehopper ‘bounce-ins’ that saved a Regency crescent in Buxton.

She made a fortune in the ’80s as a set dresser for advertising agency Selfish Britain, and is widely credited with the invention of twigs in vases as an emblem of bleak materialism. Throughout the ’90s and into the dismal Millennium Years she followed The Path of Feng Shui, working her way up to black belt and becoming a digital celebrity on UKTV’s Energy Channel. Then came the Smoking Ban, and being outside suddenly had tremendous allure. These days she’s a ‘magic arborealist’.

As we sit there in the family garden and children’s play area (the only place you can smoke at a pub now, idiots!) Isis explains how perceptions are shifting. ‘Loads of us have been looking forward to the Age of Aquarius since the musical Hair put feelings on the map in 1968. It is terribly, terribly sad that its eventual arrival coincides with a global recession, and a water shortage. The classic English garden with its thirsty lawns, delphiniums and so on will become a sign of social and moral decadence. Ooooh, but the spiritual vibe I’m getting from my ancestral voices is: turn this challenge into an opportunity, and business proposal…’

The garden’s apparently the new feng shui hotspot. ‘I mean, you CAN make things groovier inside a house by opening its chakras, applying 3-D tectonic acupuncture, making sure the furniture’s pointing the right way, of course you can. But there’s still this massive squandering of spiritual energy that gathers like an invisible fog trapped in the roof space. Gardens are different. Here the spiritual energy – ooooh – is in zephyr form, darting around, seeking refuge and solace…’ She drifts into one of her tetchy microtrances. ‘What? Yes, I’ve told him about the ancestral voices! Christ, give it a rest, I’m trying to have my lunch!’

Then out of the blue she asks me if I’m interested in casual sex and/or a business partnership. I get the bill.

Wednesday. Spend the day with Isis. We share an arthritic ‘happening’, a lie-in, a be-in, a bong-in and a doze-off. Then we start work on our business plan.

Thursday. The initial phase – overthrowing centuries of landscape architecture theory and replacing it with Magic Arborealism – is simple enough. You just need a couple of pages in a leading design magazine with renderings of stuff like shrubs with embedded LED displays, upside-down fountains and entire lawns made from recycled plastic, on stilts. And, obviously, random sentences in the text highlighted in red to indicate that both magazine and reader are ‘with it’.

Friday Far out. A Channel 4 producer LOVES some of the ideas we’ve floated on Twitter as ‘Capability_Green’ and thinks Isis and I could be the ‘Phil and Kirstie of magic arborealism’!

Saturday Settle on a name for the consultancy: Eden’s Psychedelic Head Blossom. Whoa. Trippy.

Sunday Transcend consciousness in the recliner.


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