Ian Martin deals with the BBC and ideas for the new Olympics sculpture
MONDAY. Working lunch with members of the Bow Window Group, a group of beautifully turned-out social engineers who ‘dress centre-right’. Needless to say, they’re all men.
Many of their brilliant ideas are taken directly from the world of epic space. Patronage, for instance, that’s Number One on the Quality Architecture Checklist. ‘Being at the heart of the procurement process’ - that’s Number Two, although nobody really knows what it means.
The Bow Window Group are keen to reclaim The People as a social laboratory, and housing is their way in. They’ve just ‘narrativised’ the controlled explosion in Edinburgh that demolished several blocks of council housing built around the time that sexual intercourse began.
They were selected for narrativisation because they’d been systematically under-maintained. Once something’s been completely run down it becomes one of those Problems You Can’t Solve By Throwing Money At.
Also, they’re making sure high-rise is called ‘hi-rise’ by the press – it sounds ephemeral and faddish. And they always secure a minor celebrity or a brave kid battling something horrible to ‘push the blowdown button’.
They make sure the sacrifice is not in vain by talking up redevelopment, promising ‘new homes for the 21st Century’ in case anyone was expecting original Georgian terraces.
Emphasising a ‘mix’ of homes to quell fears that it will be occupied solely by rentpayers. And including a ‘playpark’ to be getting on with. If residents demonstrate responsibility they can have a real park in due course. Next week we will be discussing how to value-engineer Affordable People.
TUESDAY. I thought the recession was supposed to be OVER, but it seems worse this month than last. Thank God for the BBC, which is still hiring.
Obviously, all their actual building plans are still on hold. They’re only commissioning metaphors at the moment. I’m being considered for the design of a prestigious staggered watershed to occupy the prime slot of 21:00-22:00. My idea is for an ‘ident’ in the form of a canal building, or ‘watershed’, that viewers would ‘physically’ pass through.
After the usual six minutes of adverts for other programmes, we find ourselves bobbing towards a baleful concrete box with vulgar gratuitous bits sticking out all over it. As the continuity announcer blathers on in her matey Northern accent we find ourselves rising in a lock filling rapidly with mucky water.
On the cue ‘strong language from the start’ we drift beneath the watershed, emerging on the other side to cast a regretful glance back. From this side, it’s a classic Victorian brick watershed, comforting and innocent. It recedes. The screen darkens.
Yes, it will have to be constructed. But the funding’s coming from Publicity, not Estates, so nobody can moan about a ‘waste of money’.
WEDNESDAY. The Sunburst Trust, a society for the propagation of art deco, is looking for ‘the next Napier’, a sequel to the New Zealand port rebuilt entirely in AD style after a devastating earthquake in 1931.
‘You bring the civic aspiration. We’ll bring the powerful sonic disruptors.’ That’s the discreet message I’m being asked to pass on to mediocre towns looking for a fresh start. I do a UK Google search for ‘hi-rise’, pull up a shortlist and email the trust.
I’m still not convinced an induced earthquake counts as an urban masterplan, but then I was sceptical about the private sector building schools and that turned out OK, didn’t it?
THURSDAY. On a positive note, Kettering held an online referendum and 91.5 per cent of the 14 respondents voted to have it sonically destroyed and replaced with a ‘world-class art deco destination’.
On a more negative note, James Fucking May has won the BBC watershed design competition by casually suggesting on Breakfast Time he could do a big one out of Lego donated by BBC licencepayers and have the whole thing filmed as a documentary.
FRIDAY. Abandon my scheme for a pop-up work campus with nap pods, acoustic tents, wireless lunch hubs, robot line managers, smart staff toggle-through capability and ‘green floors’ as I’ve actually lost sight of what’s fictional.
SATURDAY. Last arts barbeque in the Barbican’s Barbi-Q season. My friend Loaf, mayor of London, is there wagging his Tuscan hot dog at people and canvassing ideas for a new Olympics sculpture.
I think it should be a massive equestrian statue, but with Sebastian Coe astride a grotesque winged beetle. That’s everything ticked: iconic, challenging, enigmatic and pointless.
SUNDAY. Newspaper review in the recliner. A 200m-tall ‘tourist trap’ is proposed for Birmingham. Oh yeah, all very well, but they’ve got to GO there first.