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2010: 20 years of stuffed lions, epic space-filling and very long lunches

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Lack of hoverscooters and sex robots leave Ian Martin’s 2010 feeling a little flat

Monday. There’s something about ‘2010’ that’s messing with my head. Perhaps it’s how futuristic the date suddenly looks. It makes me remember the 20th century, when we thought ‘2010’ would be all Gerry Anderson hoverscooters and Star Trek holodecks and origami buildings that refold themselves to suit your mood and a new communitarian world order and sex robots.

‘2010’. Ugh. Optimism and nostalgia make poor bedfellows. One of them is relentlessly perky and insatiable; the other’s always snoring.

Tuesday. I tell Rock Steady Eddie, the Middle East fixer, about my preoccupation with the past. ‘Oh, that reminds me. I’ve heard Israel’s planning an international design competition. They’re after a world-class wall along the Egyptian border, yeah? And this time they want to pre-ironise it, so Banksy and a thousand other scribbling graffiti hoodies can’t amble over there and take the piss…’

What about a living wall? It would be expensive to maintain but… ’ Love it. Homeland security, booming and blooming’. He leans in to whisper. ‘Keep shtum, yeah, but I’ve heard there’s plenty more decorated infrastructure on the way. Wall round the West Bank, wall round Israel. From the air it’ll look like the North Circular and the M25. Until the ROOF goes on…’

Wednesday. Finish drawings for my Tamworth Mega-Library. It will incorporate the existing historic building as a sort of ironic nod to traditional notions of silence and study.

However, I have introduced exciting new concepts. Such as individual social networking booths, an indie band rehearsal space, e-reader treadmills, a Blu-Ray lounge with probiotic wi-fi and a Stephen Fry Experience in which the nation’s favourite books are wittily summarised by the nation’s favourite person in 140 characters (more if they’re by Dickens or Gabriel García Márquez). 

Thursday. Can’t shake this whole nostalgia/foreboding thing. Or Rock Steady Eddie. He rings to warn me not to speak to any journalists this week.

Apparently people are very keen to see the secret 2003 plan I helped devise for the lying shit Blair. The idea was to redesign Iraq giving it more of an open, democratic feel. ‘Less oily’ was the brief. I suggested sexing-up Baghdad with wavy roofs and metrosexual planters. There was even a bold proposal to create ‘quarters’. Literally: cultural, media, Sunni, Shia. It all came to nothing. Certain US interests wanted their own Fifth Quarter, and the Kurds went all nimby.

Thank goodness the Afghanistan remodelling’s turning out to be such a success. Obviously there are a few bumps in the road but traffic calming is a small price to pay for getting a Kabul Debenhams.

Friday. Design a new housebuilding framework for the Homes and Communities Agency. It’s made of recycled materials, with specially cut corners.

Saturday. Eddie rings with a heads-up. This week’s client buzzword is ‘reburjing’. It’s like rebadging but involves magical realism. The Burj Dubai was an awkward mix of hubris and humiliation last month. Now they’ve renamed it Burj Khalifa, it’s saucier than Blackpool Tower.

Easy, I tell him. I’ve been reburjing for decades, with miraculous results. I remind him it was my idea years ago to rebadge Windscale. Once they started calling it Sellafield all those local so-called ‘leukaemia clusters’ disappeared and… wait a minute. I’ve remembered something.

Sunday. Oh NOW I get it. It’s 20 years ago THIS WEEK that I wrote my first column taking the piss out of architects, right here in the AJ. A strange, chilly feeling overwhelms me and I retire to the recliner.

I have a weird dream, in which it’s January 1990. No internet. Lots of architects still directly employed by local authorities. Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister. Only super-rich yuppies can afford these new ‘mobile phones’. They’re so unwieldy you might as well be pulling a Routemaster with a K6 jammed into it. Brr, it’s FREEZING. Where am I? Ah, Queen Anne’s Gate. I enter the fabled Architects’ Journal of Yesteryear.

Beneath creaking Georgian floors, a composite Victorian pub assembled from bits of salvaged blitzam. There’s a stuffed lion, and spuds baking in the fire. The three funniest people in architecture – Berthold Lubetkin, Martin Pawley and Cedric Price – are at the bar, inventing neo-sarcasticism. Hey, and I’m smoking… indoors!

Wake up, coughing. I suppose I ought to thank everyone who’s read the column over the last 20 years. Then I shrug and go back to sleep.


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