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A new political mindset in epic space: heaven knows we’re miserabilist now

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Ian Martin wakes up to the new political narrative

Monday. Change is in the air. Let’s face it, even if everything stayed the same it would ‘change’ now, wouldn’t it?

The world of epic space faces some tough choices this year, and not just about finding A Form True To Our Time. Or whether to smile ironically at sexist jokes on the building site. Or what you’re supposed to wear to a pecha kucha.

Apparently we’re entering a period of frugality, again. If architects have any sense they’ll assimilate the New Meanness intotheir world-famous Green Manifesto. This time next year there’ll be loads of casually dressed new practices keeping straight faces and calling themselves ‘ecofruga’ and ‘fruco’ and suchlike. Or worse, those words but with unhelpful and disruptive colons and plus signs squeezing in pretentiously everywhere and making themselves comfortable.

This morning, I was walking along one of those world-class streets in Manchester that got Blair Facials in the early 2000s and couldn’t help noticing how plaque’s starting to form on the frozen smile. A young man with matted hair was sitting cross-legged on the pavement, his showbiz mongrel curled up next to him. ‘Any change at all?’ he asked.

I narrowed my eyes and looked hard into the architectural perspective. Here’s a quid mate, I said. But don’t expect a punchline, I just made you up for the purposes of irony.

Tuesday. Put the finishing touches to my societal masterplan. I’m proposing to fix everything in Broken Britain with the cohesive power of Community, and the adhesive power of Sponsored Links.

Wednesday. To Hartlepool for the annual Congress of Architectural Miserabilism. This year’s provocative theme is ‘Oh, What’s The Point?’

Of course hardly anyone’s turned up, what with the General Election. That, and the frankly unequivocal apathy that permeates the architectural profession. At first, hilariously, it looks like congress speakers actually outnumber members of the audience. Then I realise they are one and the same, slowly orbiting around the auditorium like those dusty fragments of Neptune. To be honest, organisers seem quite pleased with the echoing futility in the hall.

In hours and hours of articulated despair and languid melancholia there’s only one joke. It’s from keynote speaker Tub Haagendas and it’s an old one: ‘When is a spire not a spire? When it’s a verb.’ Nobody laughs, which is some sort of result I think.

Themed afternoon workshops prove popular. Architectural miserabilists love both company and niched fatalism. After two hours of mumbled doom, the politics workshop summarises itself: ‘Who cares, politicians are all the same, what’s politics got to do with architecture?’ The workshop on Architectural Miserabilism And Art offers this self-synopsis: ‘Don’t bother, fiddly bits too expensive these days.’

The workshop on Social Progress is depressing, just how congress likes it.Summary: ‘We are architects, not magicians. Decent housing, civilised public space, all that old toffee, that’s down to our clients. They are the ones with the MONEY.’

At the plenary session there are very few people left. Result! The congress is asked tovote on Options for the Future: 1. Do nothing; 2. Do nothing but feel guilty about it; 3. Do ‘something’ but regret it. The congress stutters happily to its conclusion, inquorate.

Thursday. General Election Day. Great sense of excitement/ennui in the air. Am full of hope/foreboding.

By mid-evening I’ve had more than enough of all the exit poll bullshit. I switch over and marvel as a BBC documentary euthanizes modernism with fascinating archive film and a jaunty presentational style. The credits roll, I turn back to the election coverage and marvel as a career politician euthanises the BBC with a rolled-up agenda.

Friday. Britain has woken up to a new political narrative. It all seems very familiar somehow.

Spend most of the day ‘accidentally’ emailing people in positions of influence. Then if they respond I invite them to lunch, without prejudice, to discuss opportunities for rebuilding this great country of ours but the right way this time by putting design quality at the heart of the procurement process.

Saturday. Five-a-zeitgeist adjectival football. This is the decider. The winner goes through to define commercial architecture. It’s a sketchy match and a frustrating result: Pathetic 0, Phallusy 0.

Sunday. In the morning I become a metaphor for the body politic by being in the recliner. In the afternoon, a period of realignment as my left side’s gone numb.


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