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The next best thing to the next big nexus thing

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Ian Martin heads for a Winter of Disconnect

MONDAY. Alternative Energy Day. In the morning, work up my idea for an air farm. In the afternoon, sketch out my prototype for a rain mill. In the evening, harness physical repulsion to create an innovative spiral of despair.

TUESDAY. Brilliant, feel MUCH more positive after running a self-diagnostic. I’d accidentally re-set my mental definition of architecture, from ‘frozen music’ to ‘congealed self-pity’. Idiot!

WEDNESDAY. Bad news. The Coalition’s brutal approach to ‘built environment delivery’ has now provoked the most serious demarcation dispute since the 1970s.

Despite frantic attempts by the Vocations Associations Congress, members of both the Hubmakers’ Guild and the Institute of Spacesmiths downed tools today and have been instructed to imagine no urban solutions until further notice.

Oh, the Confederation of British Privatisation appeals for common sense. But its emergency statement doesn’t sound very convincing: ‘We would like to reassure local authorities, hedge funds and other core keyholders that there are plans for hubs and spaces throughout the country. These will last for several months. There is no point in clients stockpiling so-called ‘micro-economic nebulae’, it doesn’t make sense…’

Naturally, as the confederation represents not a collective interest but a mist-cloud of tossers, this is causing panic-buying. There remains not a single conceptual scheme for a hub or space in any pipeline, anywhere. Unless a way through is found, the rebadging sector is heading for a Winter of Disconnect.

THURSDAY. This demarcation dispute is very serious for me. As a leading opinion-former on these matters, I have to pick a side. After much soul-searching I’ve decided to go with the Hubmakers’ Guild.

I have nothing against spacesmiths. I yield to no one in my admiration of them and their alchemy. I believe that the last decade has seen some truly astonishing, magical spaces created. Moribund areas of towns – long abandoned to the anarchic bumbling of people sitting on benches FREE OF CHARGE eating sandwiches prepared at home – have been transformed by ‘food courts’ and franchised noise rights.

Creating multi-purposed space is straightforward. Hubmaking’s a specialised craft. For too long spacesmiths have undercut hubmakers with that one-hub-fits-all bullshit. A genuine hub takes risks. It might be a business hub on the periphery of an airport, corralled by massive billboards proclaiming that ‘making your business our business is good business’. It might be a cultural hub offering nuanced meeting spaces, specialist retailers, exhibition nodes, assorted experiences, free wi-fi and the opportunity to ‘grab a coffee and explore!’ This really is living on the edge, as anyone who’s ever grabbed a hot coffee will confirm.

Yet hubmaking has a grand vision too. Until recently everyone fatuously described London as a ‘city of villages’, even though there’s always a shop open somewhere on Saturday afternoons. Great credit goes to the Hubmakers’ Guild for changing our perception of the capital to a ‘city of hubs’. Microhubs all link together to form macrohubs, with the Greater London area forming one vast huburb.

FRIDAY. Lunch with Rock Steady Eddie the fixer. As usual he helps himself to 18 per cent of my pudding.

Not for the first time, he wants me to abandon my principles in the pursuit of profit. ‘Look, I’m not asking you to scab. You’ve got your ideals, that’s lovely. I am merely saying I’ve got clients queuing up for hubs and spaces and nobody to provide them. I know you’d be putting your reputation at risk by strike-breaking, I respect that, we could do it under a pseudonym or whatever, are you going to finish that cheesecake.’

After all these years Eddie still thinks I’d jettison my moral convictions to make a few quid. Does he seriously expect me to become a blackleg hubmaker, a moonlighting spacesmith? When it would be much simpler to invent a new urban regeneration term altogether, and cash in that way?

SATURDAY. Devise the ‘urban bulb’, a new development marketing blueprint. A successor to the hub, it’s commercial but sounds organic. The urban bulb, a tight wad of potential, planted in the fertile soil of municipal space, one day flourishing into city apartments for people with cruel eyes and direct debit capability. Plus social benefit in the form of shops.

It’ll sound much more cheerful once I’ve tidied up my conscience a bit.

SUNDAY. Form a hubbulb in the recliner.

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