Ian Martin. A mysterious cartel. A secret society.
'Hey!' he shrieks, chest-bumping me to the floor. 'How are you today?' He helps me up and spins me round. Whack! I'm suddenly clapped hard on the back by a woman with an insane grin. 'My name is Purina! Welcome to the Home of Architecture!'
I get my breath back and demand to know what's going on. 'Danny' gets out his RIPBA Memo Of The Day. The marketing people are now issuing 'aspirational missions to keep our superbrand super'. He shows me today's task. 'Improve the walk-up impact of our reception staff'. He's right, what else could it mean? I leave quickly and reschedule the secret, not sinister, meeting for another day.
TUESDAY. Morning: work on masterplan to turn Orkney into the Saudi Arabia of the renewable-energy world. Afternoon: sketch out proposal to turn Wales into the Dubai of the bed-and-breakfast world.
WEDNESDAY. Years ago I set up something called the International Architects Network. I appealed to the vanity of global celebrities by lying that everyone else was in it, and by charging only a £5,000 joining fee. They didn't really get anything for their money, apart from the kudos of knowing they were part of a very exclusive club. Idiots. Now I¹ve had to shut it down on the advice of my lawyers. Apparently its a 'cartel'.
Epic Space Journal broke the story last week. 'Architectural giants accused of rigging ideas'.
I always thought it was an open secret that the world's richest architects operated as a cartel. I didn't realise it was a bad thing. I mean, they take it in turns to win all the major competitions, so what? One of them decides how much it costs to design a museum shaped like a giant pub lunch, and spreads the word. Who cares?
Also, say there's an ethical problem. Some Spam-faced tyrant wants a new parliament building. A state agency displaces the urban poor to enable some Black & Decker luxury eco-hotel for liberal tourists. A coalition procurement body invites tenders to rebuild a bombed city, in advance of the bombing. Someone's got to do it so everyone else can stop their consciences throbbing. They take turns, ethically.
'Oh never mind that,' says the preposterous International Office of Fair Thinking. The world's most powerful architects are guilty of ideas-fixing. They secretly collude to inflate their own perceived genius, often with the eager help of glossy magazines and enigmatic women in flat shoes.
'In a minority of the more serious cases,' says the IOFT, 'some architectural auteurs actually agreed to pay compensation to unsuccessful competition entrants in the form of homage. Cartel activity of this kind seriously harms the state of the global culturosociosphere by distorting both the market for epic space and the shape of the buildings themselves' I try to reassure everyone, but they don't return my calls.
THURSDAY. Conference. 'Crisis in rural England: where have all our pubs and post offices gone?' Summary: China.
FRIDAY. Rescheduled non-sinister secret meeting at the RIPBA. There are a dozen of us or so sitting here in the Sir John Soane Room, a chamber hidden behind a Biblical mural in the basement.
We're all trying to keep things light and chatty but the thought hangs like a ceremonial dagger in the filtered sunlight. Is he one? Is HE? Nobody knows.
We've all been issued with 'barbecue' aprons bearing the Institute's emblem- two backing dancers from The Lion King and a patio heater. There's a discussion about whether membership of an arcane and lumbering mystery is worth paying a fortune for every year, then we talk about Freemasonry. We decide that 'Antient' Masons should form a separate branch in the Ribble Valley, where most of them already are. The Modern ones should remain free from persecution: don't ask, don't tell. We all shake on it. Or do we?
SATURDAY. Another small-minded planning delay for my office tower, The Marzipan Dildo. It may not be the tallest tower in Britain, but at this rate it'll definitely be the longest.
SUNDAY. Hearty breakfast, which greatly increases my 'lie-down impact' on the recliner.