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Redefining our attitudes to the past with a ‘slightly underground’ railway

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Ian Martin gets down with the teenage lingo

MONDAY. Devise a bold plan to slash car emissions AND bring England and Scotland closer culturally by converting the A1 into a 409-mile Las Ramblas-style pedestrian boulevard.

TUESDAY. Transport for Tamworth has at last unveiled images of my ‘slightly underground’ station on the new East Tamworth Line. It’s taken years of pushing, niggling, redesigns, strategic sulking, threats of legal action, misunderstandings, actual legal action, financial collapse, virement of copyright, restructuring of the development team, recalibration of expectations, emotional firefighting, base-touching, pub lunches, compliance, grid-thinking, ennui and dark, dark misery to get this far.

Still, now the Offa Park transport interchange/retail/office/miscellaneous project is finished we all feel very proud. As well as being the 21st century’s first slightly underground station, it is also the most potentialised, flexibility-wise. As well as cramming generic ‘shops’ and new-generation 3D adverts into every available space, we’ve also put in lots of polished concrete and glass bits. In the air-rights layer above this, a PFI polyclinic and Commuters’ Wellbeing Centre. On top of that, an assortment of ‘living spaces’ described by the developer with a straight face as ‘sexy+sleek+urban+chic’.

At the sleek end: a 12-bedroom, £140 million suspended mansion with fitness centre, Turkish Baths, mini IMAX, and parking for 20 cars and a maglev sedan chair. At the not-sexy end: a key-worker cubicle containing CCTV, a thermal cocoon and a pay-per-use toilet.

Making the East Tamworth line slightly underground was my idea. I knew it would play well at planning. ‘We cannot match the Victorians’ reckless endeavour,’ I concluded. ‘Creating an underground railway now would be historical insolence. Also, prohibitively expensive. Therefore, in compliance with contextual and Wikipedia-based concerns, we commend this homage in italics to our industrial past: a slightly underground railway.
‘We think this is exactly the sort of scheme you should be approving. We took the liberty of having a conversation with Daniel, your chief executive, and he totally agreed. Best, The Development Team.’

WEDNESDAY. Put the finishing touches to my series of ‘five-star’ biodiversity hotels for viruses. It’s an open invitation from the Institute of Microbe Appeasement. They want to create ‘non-judgmental virus habitats’. Don’t ask them why. That, apparently, is between them and their research partners.

THURSDAY. Devastated. My competition-winning scheme for a 50m-tall Humber Consolatory has been ‘shelved’.
I say ‘shelved’, I mean ‘binned’. Yes, OK. It would have cost about £30 million to build. But it DID win an RIPBA competition. It beat 115 other entries. And it WAS set to attract 250,000 visitors a year. How am I calculating that figure? Mind your own bloody business.

If only it had gone ahead. Sure, visitors would have arrived in a car park on the outskirts of Hull but that would just have been the start of their adventure. The visitors would then have funnelled themselves through the ‘Orrible ‘Eritage ‘Istory of ‘Ull, disgorging into a big like millwheel or whatever. This would have carried them in batches to the top of the Consolatory, where they would have had 20 minutes to shop, eat, admire the view, reflect on their location then register for free updates before descending to the ground.

I think of those who commissioned the Consolatory in that vague, unfunded way of theirs. I hope they are pleased with themselves, whoever they are now. I wish them luck with their ‘more cost-effective solution, a Sponsored Icon’ whatever that turns out to be.

FRIDAY. I’m designing a youth centre. Lots of bright colours and what architects over 50 call ‘funky’ furniture. The brief has been worked up by a client group of teenagers. As you’d expect it’s mumbled, diffident and impossible to understand so I’ve ignored it.

One element I AM retaining is the Experiential Citizen Zone. This is a replicated street in which young people can rehearse life skills, first aid and general banter through simulated encounters with pretend drug dealers, nutty evangelists, imaginary enemies and characters from West Side Story. These ‘bad people’ will almost certainly be played by youth leaders in bandannas and motorcycle jackets.

We just need an edgy name for it. Maybe The Edge. Or Edge! No, wait: EJJJ! Sorted, as the young people say.

SATURDAY. Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Disingenuous Spasmism 8, Rethought Spontaneity 3, after extra time and footnotes.

SUNDAY. Reverse-engineer myself into the recliner.


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