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Understating the obvious

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Ian Martin designs the Tamworth Big PIEVILION

MONDAY I’m delighted to announce that I have been chosen to create the inaugural Tamworth Pavilion.

It will, I hope, neither excite nor surprise the public and mark a bold new direction for pavilion design, away from the cloud-based cultural signifiers of recent years towards a bathetic paradigm of flapping, enclosed space.

TUESDAY The Tamworth Pavilion is the opposite of a prestigious landmark. A temporary structure will be erected in August on scrubland known locally as Old Cobbler’s Lot, stay there for a fortnight and then be dismantled to make way for Billy Shippam’s Funfair.

This tight schedule really piles on the pressure to come up with something uncontroversial.

It’s a pleasure to be working with clients Tamworth Big Pie Ltd, who understand the challenges of contemporary tensile rationalism.

Unlike certain fancy-dick pavilion commissions in London, the terms of this appointment actively discourage pretension. ‘No French or long words in the design statement’ says the brief, faxed to me this morning. ‘No blurring of boundaries, merging this and bloody that. Proper inside, proper outside, thank you very much’.

Any mention of ‘spatial territory’ or ‘an architecture beyond architecture’ will result in instant disqualification: ‘We’ll just find someone who knows how to do a big tent, eh?’

WEDNESDAY As part of the research process I have a Tamworth Big Pie (‘We fill ‘em up, they fill you up, job done’) for lunch. Architecturally the pie is pretty unremarkable.

Its pastry envelope holds the contents in a perfectly adequate way. The interior is a measured narrative journey of form and texture.

But in the end mass and density are meaningless out of context, aren’t they? All complex constructions must be assimilated by their surroundings, environmental or digestive. So I eat the pie.

On the one hand it’s disgusting. On the other, the Tamworth Big Pie people are paying me. I get a fax at teatime: ‘1: How’s that pavilion coming along, you need to get your arse into gear. 2: What do you think to our pies, eh?’ Tempted to remind them that 1: I’m an auteur and 2: Understanding the difference between genitive and dative is surely a basic requirement, however ‘regional’ the English.

Of course, the design process is all about plate-spinning.

I tell them that 1. I’ll have some rough ideas by the end of the week and 2. Connective tissue never tasted this good.

THURSDAY Working up pavilion ideas via a process of elimination.

The look I’m going for is hyperunderstated absence. The easiest way to do this is to imagine I’m creating a magical space for thin Londoners in sloganised clothes, sketch it, then bin it.

Accordingly I abandon the idea of doing a sort of clever nebulous mist of shimmering dematerialised steel. Likewise,

I park my ‘freespace cultural windsock’, made of spun bamboo pulp. And my mysterious floating laminated thought castle, which pushes at the edge of our perceptions of what a pavilion might be and is only truly ‘visible’ when filtered through the viewer’s imagination, is also summarily crumpled up and tossed away.

Another fax. ‘We will be looking to enhance the Tamworth Big Pie brand with this tent, so think on. Remember - we’re bloody paying for it, we want the logo every bloody where, hope that’s clear. Re toilets - get the bloody council to sort that out, we’re a pie company not a charity’.

FRIDAY After a great deal of mental trial and error I have decided on my pavilion concept.

It is a massive tent made of industrial pie-coloured plastic sheeting in the shape of a pie and it will be called The Tamworth Big PIEVILION.

Inside there will be activities for all the family including pies to buy, pie-eating competitions, a short documentary called Life of Pie, someone in a Tamworth Big Pie Man costume patting children’s heads and an experimental section featuring a range of pies in different shapes with exotic fillings.

SATURDAY A grudging commendation arrives by fax.

‘Not bad. We like the pie theme a lot and the pie activities, etc. Reminds us a bit of that Millennium Dome they had in London a couple of years back.

The tent should be smaller so it feels fuller inside, like our pies. Otherwise OK.

SUNDAY Reflect on another busy week as an independent alchemist, turning base opportunity into epic space. Doze fitfully in the recliner.

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