Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


  • Comment

Sutherland Lyall gave me a job at BD in 1981 and I think Martin must have taken over as editor later that year. He'd been teaching in the US and his book, Garbage Housing, was being cited by all those proto-community architect types and students - two sets of people Martin has been more or less constantly at war with. We'd heard he was a Marxist who voted Tory, but he turned out to be more complicated than that.

A card-carrying Modernist, he is completely unsentimental about everything. I remember the fuss when he commended the rational beauty of a nuclear missile - 'shorn of design functions, it has only kill functions' - and his ability to escape political pigeon-holing.

When the Brixton riots happened in 1981, Martin was writing about architecture for the Guardian. In the same sentence he called for an Asian sub-postmaster who'd died after barricading himself inside his post office to be awarded the George Cross, and castigated the police who'd clamped down on drug-dealing in the area for destroying the local economy.

Martin arrived on the scene at a pivotal moment. Lubetkin had been given the Royal Gold Medal, and Terry Farrell's little flower shop had appeared in Covent Garden. Post-Modernism and community architecture dominated the professional agenda and Martin was having none of it. And, for someone who'd had no journalistic training, he was quick to grasp the mischief theory of news reporting (rule one: fill the space; rule two: upset someone. ) He was, at times, utterly unscrupulous. Indeed, he kept a printed quote pinned up in the newsroom, something about scruples being the enemy of productivity - I wish I could remember who it was from.

His departure from BD was as sudden as his arrival. In the most amicable circumstances imaginable, I'd resigned as news editor on a point of principle: an RIBA presidential election was looming and Martin favoured one of the candidates. Both had been invited to submit a manifesto piece for the magazine, but Martin's guy didn't have an idea in his head, so Martin got the other bloke's piece in early and let his man pore over it for the weekend, to produce a model of pre-emptive thought. Then Martin had a row with the publisher - he was always having a row with the publisher - and threatened to resign if he couldn't nominate my replacement. The publisher called his bluff and he was gone.

His glory days came when he moved to the AJ as news editor.

The AJ was then being run out of a rambling Georgian Gormenghast in Queen Anne's Gate, which came complete with its own basement pub. Working conditions were brilliant if, like me, you were a freelance hack. Martin didn't care if you got pissed at lunchtime, or spent the day at the RIBA tripping on acid, as long as the news pages were filled and we got a steady stream of irate callers on publication day.

Martin's Wednesday morning editorial meetings were unlike any I'd ever attended. His approach to sifting through the raw material and planning what to write had, as its point of departure, a series of headlines he'd invent - 'What I really want this week is a story with a headline like 'Prince Charles Praises Nazis', or 'Minister Calls For Student Cull' or 'Every Home In Dorset Filled With Deadly Radon Gas'' - and we'd all do our best.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.