Towards a new, inclusive Epic Space Communion
It is all very well for the Prince of Wales, the titular head of conservative architecture, to bang on about tradition. His job's at stake. So what if there's no reference to flamboyant architecture in the Book of Common Prayer? That doesn't mean architecture of different shapes and social destinies is 'wrong' or 'unscriptural'.
What Would Vitruvius Do? I don't know. But when he preached 'firmitas utilitas venustas' I don't think he had Georgian pastiche in mind. Architecture is an expression of human aspiration, and love. If not for each other, at least for ourselves. We have a duty to stand with the unorthodox, the marginalised, the reviled, the experimental.
Now the preposterous ultra-conservatives threaten to 'break away' from the Architectural Communion, like anyone would notice. No, the straights and the perpendics have had it their way for thousands of years. I'm with the Lesbian and Gehry Architectural Alliance.
TUESDAY. I'm also thinking about joining the Roman Catholic church, to take a stand against the blasphemy of carbon fundamentalism. I saw a London dustcart the other day bearing the mission statement 'Camden Council – taking away the sins of the world…'
WEDNESDAY. There's a competition to design 'a major new iconistic beaconical landmark building' for a small town in the Midlands. Instead of a brief, I've been sent a 'FAQ'.
What is the purpose of the new building? To act as a focus for new businesses and public empowerment. How will this focus be delivered? Through tallness, design innovation and lights that respond to activity levels inside or something. What will happen inside the building? Creative industry and new ways of working together. Who will pay for the building? Costs will be met via a multi-level partnership of agencies, and 'shortfall'. Is there anything else I need to know? No, but please avoid disqualification by not printing out this email.
Thank God the competition has been approved by the RIPBA. It could have been much vaguer.
THURSDAY. Still, you can't enter everything. It thins the genius. Yeah, forget the beaconical landmark building. I'll have a go at this competition instead, a Call for Ideas. The challenge is to rethink Ivanhoe Gardens, a classic ’60s council housing scheme in the part of Tower Hamlets known locally as Least Poplar. And quick as you like, it's not listed and might be bulldozed in a minute.
Synopsis: designed by legendary architects Norman & Wisdom, then not looked after very well for 40 years, then – oops – suddenly remembered. Today we know that concepts such as 'aerial doorsteps' and 'vertical neighbouring' and 'affordable housing' were flawed, but in the 1960s most people were working class and could be arranged more easily. Men in hats, the women in scarves, a bit like contemporary Forest Gate, only less homophobic.
This is the 21st century though, as we never tire of reminding ourselves, so all rethinks must be radical. First, what sort of user do we want? Clue, we're in Docklands. To make the estate ecologically viable we need high-earning singles looking for stylish studio living just a five-minute cab ride from Canary Wharf. And how do we attract these savvy, 21st-century users? By making it look as though they already live there, idiot.
I discard my plan for the meticulous restoration of Ivanhoe Gardens and instead create a digital montage with random fabric blobs all over it. Whoa, excellent. The elevation looks like an overhead view of the VIP camping area at Glastonbury. Some wiggly stuff here… scribble over the top in magic marker… sorted!
FRIDAY. I'm shortlisted. Everybody loves my podded estate. Full of confidence, I'm now rethinking the BBC TV Centre (relocate nearer the Olympics, elevate and stretch out inside a diagrid tube, tie a knot in it, call it a media hyperhub) and Birmingham (repopulate central area with sketchy triangular cartoon people, create magical spaces from fractal theory, retrofit a Mediterranean sky and infuse with helium).
SATURDAY. Annual Epic Space Ball. Bump into architecture minister Dorothy Bungham. As I was born between the Second World War and the Beatles, she ignores me.
SUNDAY. Celebrate mass at home with high-calorific afternoon in the recliner.