Relax. Frankie Says Relax. The construction industry has been here before, lessons have been learned. This time we’re going to meet the economic crisis head on with a surge of all-day conferences on the theme of Challenges Ahead. Ladies and gentlemen, wake up and smell the coffee and registration.
Only leave me out – I’m allergic to any event involving VAT or a plenary session. OK, I grudgingly admit that when you’re trapped in a conference room with hundreds of ‘construction professionals’ who haven’t had anything for breakfast and don’t drink at lunchtime, architects are the least worst. They are in general an optimistic bunch, and the world would be a better place if their values prevailed.
But still, at the last minute I decide to blow out the Towards A New Corbusian Skillset conference. The flyer starts: ‘If Le Corbusier were alive today he would define architecture as the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses bundled together in a mixed-equity package of sustainable light…’
Yeah, call me old-fashioned, but an all-day breakfast beats an all-day conference any old all-day.
TUESDAY. Lunch with my Modernist friend Richard, who’s just been made a Companion of Honour. The perks are rubbish – permission to gather kindling in Epping Forest, a barrel of ale and a suckling pig every Christmas – but he does get to wear some pretty cool robes designed by Stella McCartney. And him an egalitarian liberal! Oh, the irony and the erminery.
The ceremony goes back to the time of Magna Carta, ‘companion’ being an ancient word for ‘someone you have lunch with’ and ‘honour’ meaning ‘allegiance to moral principles subject to client’s consent’. Richard’s unhappy because the forces of destiny now seek to reverse his urban renaissance all the way back to the dark ages, but I see this as a positive thing. Once we’ve rewound to the 8th century, Tamworth should by rights be restored as capital of England. It would save a fortune on petrol, as people in The North wouldn’t have to go so far to make their point.
WEDNESDAY. Urban theorist Zavvi Durkheim cancels drinks. Doctor’s appointment. Every time she’s in a room full of architects she feels compelled to shout out rude solutions to hypothetical design problems.
THURSDAY. Zavvi rings. The doctor’s diagnosed Charrette’s Syndrome.
FRIDAY. London’s Freshtival of Larkitecture begins badly with a cycling breakfast, then I spend all day travelling from one ‘buzzhub’ to the next. All very jolly though. Very impressed with the many newly revealed Thames tributaries, only to discover they’re just mains leaks.
SATURDAY. The long-awaited Dogs of Epic Space competition. Bauhau the dachshund, trembling with excitement, has been transformed into a miniature version of this year’s Serpentine Pavilion. That, or a miniature version of a garden shed destroyed by a fertiliser bomb. His owner Darcy is quivering like an architectural jelly too, and no wonder. There’s some stiff competition. Haughty canine celebrities with names like Nipper and Pickles and Salieri parade in an assortment of claddings.
In third place, it’s an Old English sheepdog, Fido Eco Sum. He has been entered by the Mayor of London, though
not in an Eric Gill way. Fido’s the only entrant with a name in dog Latin, and is done up to resemble a thatched moot hall in Henley. Second place goes to Ruff-Ruff. This poodle’s certainly clever, having spent seven years training as an architect’s dog before becoming a mascot for one of our leading developers.
And the winner is… Ovovia. She’s a Basset Fauve de Bretagne and is sheathed in a scaled-down replica of Zaha’s proposed extension to the Middle East Centre in Oxford. The judges admired her awkwardness and competitiveness. At one point she bit Bauhau on the nose. ‘Bitch’, mutters Darcy, needlessly.
SUNDAY. Evoke the dynamic process of architecture by spending all morning in the recliner plagued by self-doubt, over-confidence and moral confusion. In the afternoon, evoke the dynamic process of engineering by getting pissed with some engineers.