Ian Martin visits the Residents’ Associations Association while investigating the hot autumn look for architecture
Monday. Morning: check my emails. Everyone in London’s talking about the hot autumn look for architecture – ‘New Butch’. I’ll just pretend I know what they’re on about and busk it.
Afternoon: decide to recast my glassy, bulging clump of upmarket city flats in the New Butch style. I accordingly make the whole thing ‘manly’, aggressive and selfish. Rather than contextualising the scheme, I make it stand on the corner of a shitty part of Manchester challenging surrounding buildings to a fight, then have it slump unconscious in a pool of pre-modernist vomit.
Oh. It looks like every other new upmarket block of flats. I’ll have to try a more nuanced approach.
Tuesday. I turn for guidance on New Butch to an article by design commentator Darcy Farquear’say. His byline picture has changed. He’s lost the beret, eyeliner and post-war NHS glasses. Now he squints menacingly from the page with what must be a fortnight’s no-shaving teased into a five o’clock shadow. They’ve even airbrushed a JAW in.
According to Darcy, the New Butch is ‘all about rough finishes, tough textures…dense, gutsy buildings that give off the unmistakable musk of rampant maleness…’ Ugh. He then goes on to differentiate between Straight Butch and Gay Butch buildings, categorising each of the Stirling shortlist in terms of its sexuality.
As a feminist I thought I’d never say this about Darcy, but what a typical MAN. Butchness is not an exclusively male quality, is it? Zaha’s on the shortlist, she’s all woman, and there are plenty of butch aspects to her architecture.
Yet he denigrates her scheme as ‘too fussy, shiny, girly’. Twat. It’s almost as if Darcy’s saying that British architecture – the most inclusive, liberal, gay-friendly of all the arts – is dominated by MEN.
I think if he checks his facts he’ll discover that architects are 50:50 men and women, and that a significant proportion are out, not all of them to lunch.
Wednesday. May finally be getting the hang of this ‘NB’ business. Invest 30 seconds musing on Twitter about whether it should be ‘machotecture’ or ‘butchitecture’ and bingo, I’ve got a gig lecturing at Harvard on Queer Morphology in Contemporary Urbanism.
Then I read an article by Toby Young on educational environments which I largely agree with, yet I feel a primitive, deplorable urge to punch him in the face. Then I put on a plaid shirt and go berserk in the garden with a chainsaw.
Thursday. To the AGM of the Residents’ Associations Association, the association representing residents’ associations.
We assemble in the cramped Smoking Permitted area next to the trolleys outside Heathrow Airport. Everything seems perfectly normal, congenial even. Then suddenly some extremely tense, non-diegetic music starts. Casually, one by one, we all drift off with great purpose into strange European cobbled streets, then into secret passages, leading to hidden staircases, down to a mysterious basement area with significant development potential.
A charismatic figure in a gardening fleece stands in the centre, sucking Everton Mints. It is Kevin Brülé, the man who started the Residents’ Associations Association. A hush falls as he addresses us.‘The first rule of Residents’ Associations Association is that you do not talk about Residents’ Associations Association. The second rule is that you do not question the disposition of the apostrophe in the Residents’ Associations Association.
‘When someone raises a Point of Order, or starts sounding a bit limp, it’s time to take a break with coffee
and biscuits. Only TWO sides to any argument about “environmental procedure”. And just one argument at
a time, thank you…’
There follows a breathtaking succession of debates, the protagonists looking increasingly battered and weary. After an hour or so of gruesome, brutal arguments I’ve completely changed my mind about the Residents’ Associations Association. I don’t think it IS a useful feedback forum for architects about estate management. Then I challenge myself on this appraisal, conducting a fierce internal debate in my mind.
Without warning, I hit myself. Ouch. That’s enough interior dialogue I tell myself firmly, thrusting my hands firmly into the pockets of my fleece…where they encounter some Everton Mints. Nooooooooo!
Friday. Memo To Self: abandon New Butch version of self.
Saturday. The Stirling prizewinner is announced. Yep, that’s it. New Butch is dead. Long live Neo-European Consensustivity.
Sunday. Return to Old Fem normality, in the recliner.