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Exploring the idea of ‘authenticated space’ in a pop-up Thinking Room

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Ian Martin considers backing a campaign to save a library and designs a pop-up high street

Monday. To a conference - The Power of Hope In A Climate Of Scepticism. Summary: if we all concentrate, we might convince the weather to be more ‘ethical’ in the future.

Tuesday. Dusty Penhaligon, the conservactionist, is furious with the 21st century. Especially the way it keeps ignoring, and in some cases replacing, the 20th century.

He’s specifically cross with Dorothy Bungham, minister for epic space and tourism. She has refused to list Tamworth Central Library, thereby turning it into a totemic 1974 Lumpist landmark. With its famous ‘inverted shibboleth’ and award-winning size, it is now a cause célèbre. This is bad news for Bungham, who is trying to stop post-war buildings escalating into French and italics as this makes them harder to demolish.

Still, the non-listing is a blow for Dusty and his merry band of ‘spabs’ - the special advisers on buildings campaigning for a moratorium on every building designed between the Norman Conquest and the Millennium Dome. Basically, they’re against anything at all being demolished, or altered, or being the victim of targeted sarcasm.

Dusty’s inflexible approach to conservation is making him few friends. Popular sympathy is shifting to the breakaway ‘apoptosisist wing’ of the heritage movement - a new generation of non-smoking conservactionists who are comfortable with their sexuality and into Asian Fusion food. In striking contrast to Dusty’s ragtag bunch of Army surplus-wearing miserabilists, with their roll-ups and real ale and period haircuts.

The Apoptosis theory of urban development borrows its name from the world of nature - always a good point of departure, ask the Prince of Wales - and refers to the natural dying-off of cells (or buildings) when they’ve completed their job. I daren’t tell Dusty I’m an apoptosisist, he’d be livid. But Tamworth Central Library doesn’t look permanent and timeless. It looks like it was designed to last 40 years, which means its time is just about up.

Yet… keeping it WOULD block plans for something called a ‘large-scale mixed-use development’, which promises considerably less civic optimism than a public library. As Dusty says, the character of most 21st century redevelopment expresses little more than a commercial algorithm. ‘Pff. Architecture today has Attention Deficit Disorder, if you ask me,’ he says. Which I didn’t, actually.

I think I’ll back the campaign to save the library. When you consider the people who’ll be wound up by such a reactionary and short-sighted view, it becomes suddenly very attractive.

Wednesday. Rock Steady Eddie the fixer calls, very smug. ‘Told you Dobuy was going down the khazi, didn’t I? All them abandoned half-finished megastructures. The bleedin’ desert will reclaim it soon. It’s like, you know, that bloke. Ozzy Someone. Dead famous, then ends up all ravaged and forgotten…’ Osbourne? ‘Mandias’.

Thursday. I have been asked to curate an exhibition of contemporary space at the Institute of Plasmic Arts. It will explore several ideas at the same time, thus demonstrating great cultural value for money.

The exhibition will investigate the notion of ‘in-between spaces’, seeking to illustrate this most elusive of concepts via photographs and videos of some ‘spaces in-between things’. It will explore ideas of Abstraction in Transition by collating abstract spaces and then blurring the images a bit. Most importantly, it will challenge perceptions of ‘authenticated space’ with something called a Thinking Room. Visitors will be invited to ‘inhabit’ the space, then ‘authenticate’ it by acknowledging their presence within it, then deciding for themselves how ‘authentication’ works. In this way the whole exercise is open and democratic, which is brilliant.

Friday. Conceptual sketches for a pop-up high street. The basic principle is simple. Assign commercial destinies to a series of retail units, or ‘shops’, leaving around one in six vacant.

This will create a fluid dynamic in the urban matrix and encourage ‘pop-up shops’. Obviously, the plan is not prescriptive. I am not some Pop-Up Nazi. Certain shops could be third sector-related, selling second-hand clothes, say. Or seasonal and local, like the best sort of vegetable. A Christmas Decorations shop, perhaps.

There will of course be scope to retain traditional creative hubs filled with ‘colour, art and laughter’.

Saturday. Five-a-zeitgeist match at Hoxton Pop-Up Football Club. Hivemind Academicals 2, Blue Sky Nemesis 3.

Sunday. Put my apoptosisism into practice in the recliner by watching a programme about Britain’s marvellous architectural heritage, then reaching my natural ‘dropping off ’ point.


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