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Shhh, silence please, we’re trying to think about public libraries

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Ian Martin experiments with the Bluster Effect

Monday. I’ve designed a haughty landmark building for south London. It will dramatically reverse a local underlying trend of deprivation and social disorder. How? By providing 500 luxury flats on stilts. Protected by a moat, trophy dogs and an armed concierge.

Also, it will shame the surrounding area out of its ‘green energy apathy’ by setting a new benchmark in non-carbonation. Five wind turbines using the ‘Bluster effect’ have been self-righteously incorporated into my design, right at the top. According to our marketing engineers the turbines are projected to generate eight per cent of the building’s electricity needs.

Furthermore, I’m recommending a competition within the local community to choose a nickname for the building. That way, everyone has a stake in our future.

Tuesday. Lunch at the Department for Entertainment with minister for epic space Dorothy Bungham, who’s panicking a bit. She’s due to tell everyone what we’re supposed to do with libraries next week and so far all she’s got is a sheet of A4 with ‘LIBRARIES?’ scrawled at the top.

I try to reassure her: nobody gives a shit about libraries any more, they won’t notice if you don’t say ANYTHING. Alas, the speech is being talked up as a signpost to a new world of tough love for the public sector. All the ministers are doing it. I think it’s a paving exercise, smoothing the way for consultancy work in the humane decommissioning of our elderly and incontinent welfare state.

After approximately 350ml of pinot grigio spritzer, Dot starts freestyling ideas. ‘Think Amazon. 24/7 Culture. Mm. Move with the times, stay part of the times. Footfall is lifeblood. Let’s celebrate ewoks. No, ebooks. Coffee. Mm. Put coffee bars in. That worked for hospitals. Volunteers, with little hats. Citizen-focused services. That sounds good. Mm. Rewards for ordinary voters. Wetherspoon’s vouchers. Tesco. Starbucks. iPhone. Xbox. If I keep saying these things maybe it will all just sort itself out. Mm.’

God. Just to shut her up I agree to come up with a strategy by the end of the week. Although frankly it sounds as though she’s covered all the main points.

Wednesday. Not happy with these five ostentatious wind turbines generating just eight per cent of my landmark building’s electricity needs. Doesn’t sound much really, does it? The keynote for green technology these days is flexibility, so I advise the marketing engineers to revise energy projections – up to 72 per cent should do it. Not for the first time, I marvel at the sheer rhetorical power of ecological innovation.

Thursday. Meeting of the Olympic Rebadging Task Force. Games minister Suzi Towel leads Prayers, Minutes, Apologies For Absence and Mexican Wave. To save time they’re all sort of merged, which seems vaguely disrespectful.

According to Suzi, the restoration of the Euston Arch as a Gateway to the Olympics has entered the ‘some next-level shit right here’ phase. A report on how to make the most of the Arch’s inherent dignity has recommended hollowing it out ‘to house 21st-century requirements’. On the shortlist at the moment: a celebrity diorama, the world’s first £10 toilet, a lap-dancing casino/nightclub called Archie’s.

Friday. I send my Library Strategy notes over to Dot. Summary: Declare the printed word a Dead Language and books a hate crime against Earth’s Precious Resources; redefine libraries as Centres of Excellence so that half can be sold off; surviving libraries can offer immersive 3D versions of internet ads for Amazon, Wetherspoon’s, Starbucks etc, replacing archaic ‘sections’ e.g. History, Art & Architecture, Fiction A-Z By Author.

I feel a sudden cold draught. Either I’ve left a door open or the Angel of Death just swooped low en route to the TUC.

Saturday. Brilliant. My redesign of Old Trafford cricket ground has won planning permission. Oh of course it’s sad to see the demise of a familiar aesthetic: ‘harmless, loveable, friendly Test Match venue’. But it’s great to welcome in another: ‘soulless ex-urban retail park with what looks like the North West’s largest discount carpet warehouse and a fuck-off B&Q’.

This is all about Good Value, though the chances of cricket fans liking it I reckon are 50-50. Or, with substantial value engineering, 20-20.

Sunday. Horizontal brainwork in the recliner. I reflect on how design is a broad church – floored in vanilla tiling, containing a central sculptural element, its original pews replaced with horrible spindly furniture. Then I doze off.


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