The name of the game may have changed, but it’s still musical chairs for space-parcellists
Ian Martin redefines the London property development game
MONDAY. I am redefining the London property development game. Until the recession, ‘the game’ had always been Monopoly: you whizzed round amassing random assets, collected GO money, nursed a futile ambition to gentrify the Old Kent Road and ultimately crushed your enemies beneath a Mayfair hotel.
But at a time of grim austerity, property developers are easy targets for idle Marxists and envious Apprentice types. So I propose changing the ‘game’ property developers ‘play’ to ‘Pass the Parcel’. It’s inclusive, fair, communal and – if someone reliable’s in charge of stopping the music – you get a prize at the end.
I ring my old friend Emily Simile from the Council of Property Symbologists. She’s very impressed with my idea and offers me a fee to start punting out sponsored #passthepropertyparcel memes on Twitter.
TUESDAY. In the morning, sketch out plans to convert a gigantic disused power station site into a football ground.
In the afternoon, design the conversion of a disused football ground into a mixed-media concert arena. In the evening, devise a biofuel power station within a disused music hall. Pass the Property Parcel in action. I retire, exhausted.
WEDNESDAY. My sheer cleverness has roiled my subconscious. In the middle of the night I airpunch myself awake from a dream in which I have swap-converted a mosque and a nightclub. Wait. ‘Airpunch’. I’m on fire! That’s the most brilliant nickname for a skyscraper, ever! I scribble some notes, resolve to nickname my next pass-the-parcelled skyscraper The Airpunch, congratulate myself once again and go back to sleep.
THURSDAY. My friend Loaf, the mayor of London, calls. Two things. What about changing the property development game to ‘whiff-whaff’, maybe attract more upmarket investors? No.
The other thing is, I can have a skyscraper ANYWHERE I LIKE IN LONDON as long as it’s called The Airpunch and Loaf gets to open it, in Latin. Done.
FRIDAY. God, I wish I’d never agreed to become ‘conceptualiser, artistic executive producer, director of coherence, form commander and diseñador de espacios épico’ for a massive so-called ‘cultural campus’ in a Mediterranean harbour town.
It was years ago. The world then – leafy end of the 1990s – was a more secure and dependable place. Everyone, even the newspapers, were supportive of my broad vision, my haughty disdain of the humdrum. ‘The Spanish Job’ was one of the very first commissions wrangled by Rock Steady Eddie the fixer. It was supposed to establish me as a ‘global marque’. Instead it has left me the wholly innocent victim of an internet hate campaign.
Such a shame. It started so well with a glittering landmark bridge – carbonated steel, hammocked in patinated bronze. I’d pitched it as a Millennium Promenade across an underlit canal, but it was still pretty early days and there was nothing really on either side of the notional canal, so I put another landmark bridge a bit further down to encourage pedestrian flow back and forth.
When the campus nodes started to appear, everything went wrong. The Aquarium of Everyday Life, a huge lava tank with quotidian objects moving gently through transparent ‘smart plasma’, fell off its stupid fucking stilts a month after opening.
People got bored with the Museum of Inversions. ‘Is that it? A building full of things simply turned upside down?’ – Cultural Campus World. The Hemispheres of the World, two environmentally-sealed volumes constructed separately then brought together at great cost to form a notional world of two separate halves to make a point, I can’t quite recall what, it was a long time ago, it’s academic. This unique opportunity for cultural exploration also failed to arouse any public curiosity whatsoever.
Eddie negotiated a fee arrangement that paid a proportion of the final cost for each project. If the build cost escalated, so did the diseñador de espacios épico bung. I was all for prudence. It was Eddie who wanted the silver filigree and so on. Not my fault they owe me over £100m in design fees.
Look, swings and roundabouts. A public hospital I designed has just had its budget halved, so I’ll only be getting three grand. I’m not immune to economics.
SATURDAY. Eddie rings. He’s registered The Airpunch in every copyright territory in the world. I think the parcel may have passed from creating epic space to licensing it.
SUNDAY. Self-parcel in the recliner.