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Searching for architectural meaning and salvation in a dogless world

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Ian Martin sneers at the Association of Atheist Architects

Monday. Long lunch with Darcy Farquear’say, architecture correspondent for the Creative on Sunday. The preposterous Bauhau, his neurotic dachshund, sleeps fitfully under the table in a Zaha Hadid canine onesie.

Darcy’s bored these days; there’s less and less architecture to write about. And also pretty cross with himself: when he mentioned the slowdown to the Creative they decided to expand his roving brief to accommodate cake shows and graffiti.

There’s nothing he can do about it, of course. The flow of new architecture is slowing in accordance with Coalition Restrictions, and not expected to pick up again properly until about 14 months before the next General Election. Darcy will be all right. He just needs a Big Theme he can saddle and ride like some bucking yet pretentious cultural bronco for a few months.

‘It has to be a design idea that people will buy into, and don’t suggest paywalled architecture… a hivemindset, mm, combinable singularity, a way of looking at the environment, a detached retina if you will…’ I won’t. ‘Something smart and fashionable, but not too intellectually challenging. Something that chimes with the times. And doesn’t cost anything…’

Bauhau’s woken up and apparently wants to ‘go wee-wee’. What a humiliation. Crammed into haute couture AND given a toddler’s voice. I tell Darcy I’ll have a think about his Big Theme, and order more drinkies.

Tuesday. Opposition to my jaunty mosque in Tamworth grows by the day. Oh, they SAY their objections are architectural – the dome’s too sparkly, the ultra-contemporary glowing minaret’s out of whack with the surrounding non-listed 70s buildings and so on.

Some people mutter darkly that the protestors are cloaking anti-Muslim prejudice in aesthetic objections. I agree, some of these seem flimsy – YES the millions of tiny mosaic mirrors will dazzle viewers into temporary blindness so DON’T LOOK AT IT WHEN THE SUN’S OUT, IDIOTS. But their fear goes deeper. It is a fear of religion. They’re scared of the sacred. Whoa, wait…

Wednesday. Meet Darcy in the pub. Atheism, I tell him, there’s your theme. It’s this year’s liberal must-have, this season’s lava lamp. Bauhau’s napping on the floor, dressed nose to tail today in some sort of Stella McCartney strudel. ‘Yes!’ says Darcy. ‘God is dead!’ Dog, however, is risen and bursting.

Thursday. Field research. A depressing conference called Redeeming A Godless World. It has been organised by the Association of Atheist Architects, a bunch of self-satisfied tossers glowing with ineffable smugness.

Much of the morning session is devoted to refurb. Turning churches, chapels and manses into more meaningful vehicles for our shared sense of wretchedness: nightclubs, public houses featuring Giant Jenga, little flats with no cupboard space. Everyone pays tribute to the lying shit Blair who despite his own ostentatious holiness did more for the humanist cause than almost anyone else in those difficult years after 9/11.

Under Blair’s Fag Terror smoking disappeared from pubs overnight. Many non-believers saw cigarette smoke as a metaphor for the Holy Ghost. How easy to eradicate! Those stupid ads on buses: ‘Thank you for not believing in God’, ‘The best way to stop believing in God is never to start’, ‘Protect children: don’t let them absorb your belief in God’. Now faith, like smoking, exists primarily outside: trudging Jehovah’s Witnesses and those evangelical nomads who pop up occasionally in the market square shouting about Leviticus.

In the afternoon, delegates discuss the criteria for atheistic design. Top of the list is amending insurance policies to ‘Act of Earth’. Lots of reflective glass, obviously. No Freemasonry business. ‘Smart columns’ by Christopher Hitchens etc. All details certified God-free. No more infinity pools. A saturating ethos of ‘yes, we’re certain, this is as good as it gets, so fuck off and get on with the rest of your lives, yeah?’

Friday. Darcy leaves a message. ‘Built environment – not a prophet exactly, but definitely a graven image? Spiritus Loci? Talk later, Bauhau’s had an accident…’

Saturday. Hatch plan with Rock Steady Eddie the fixer to launch a directory of Atheist Designers and to change my trading name to Aalto.

Sunday. Newspaper review in the recliner. Read Darcy’s piece – ‘Towards A New Emotional Secularism’. I still think Agnostic Revival, a sort of pagany Pugin, has more resonance among the open-minded but Darcy’s not interested in them. There is No Rationalism But Rationalism, is his new motto.

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