Ian Martin’s annual crashcourse in Yuletide time wasting for marginalised, misanthropic architects. Illustrations by Bill Bragg
1. Imagine. A thousand years from now. A traveller from an antique land is exploring the lone and level sands of the East London Wilderness. She discovers the remains of the mysterious OrbiMandias structure. There’s an inscription, barely visible, on the sand-caked, rusted plinth. What does it say?
- ‘Torque of the Town 2012!’
- ‘I Am The Product Of The Cleverest Contemporary Thinking In The Fields Of Design And Engineering, So Shut Up.’
-‘My name is Irrelevant, I was Big in Steel. Look at my peerage you mugs, and despair.’
2. Angela Brady became the RIPBA’s first ‘pop-up president’. What did she propose as the institute’s new emblem?
3. Talking of pop-up TENTS: the Occupation of Paternoster Square! Whoa! What was the narrative consensus on THAT?
- ‘Yeah, love the way the light falls…dude, those tents DO take a photograph well… whole thing feels like so… full of energy… kind of thing I did when I was a really promising diploma student…’
- ‘Cultured neighbourliness is great, don’t get me wrong. But you need better tents. I’ve got some great ideas you know, depending on funding, here’s my card, shit, sorry, got to take this, hello?
- ‘So much more interesting than the bleak scoop of absence Paternoster Square has been for a generation thanks to sanctimonious meddling at the time by that insufferable prick the Prince of Wales, no offence’.
4. It was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. How was a global architectural response expressed?
- A huge sense sense of loss measured in cubic air.
- Accumulated sense of timewasting, measured in elasticated contractual deadlines.
- Declining sense of emotional investment, measured in heavily discounted closure bonds.
5. We all remember where we were when Osama bin Laden and unspecified others were killed. But there was something particularly horrifying for architects about the bin Laden compound. What was it?
- No wi-fi.
- Security features demonstrably non-sustainable.
- No record of application to Abbottabad District Council’s planning department for change of use to lair.
6. When David Chipperfield heard he’d won the Royal Gold Medal, he famously leapt from the bath, exclaiming:
- ‘Oh, hello British Establishment – recognise me NOW? I couldn’t get a fucking loft extension here in the 80s you bastards, I am honoured and humbled!’
- ‘Finally! Finally! Exposure at last you shits, I am honoured and humbled!’
- ‘Am I the only one sticking up for architecture? Hand me a towel, I’m going round to see Michael Gove and punch him in the fucking face, I am honoured and humbled!’
7. Oh yeah, Michael Gove. He upset architects again this year. How?
- By suggesting that venal, corporate, passionless design contractors were more interested in earning money than winning acclaim, still.
- By suggesting that all architects ‘are gay and they all wear gay clothes and they ride gay bikes and draw gay things for their stupid gay friends and they are all just big gayers, no returns’.
- By not mentioning architects once during 2011.
8. The imminent return to a Dickensian division of rich and poor in our exciting Big Society will give architects the opportunity to:
- Work with some of the most misunderstood, marginalised and reviled members of the community, by creating burglar-resistant luxury apartments.
- Revive a golden period of British architecture by swanning around in top hats and monocles and encouraging lady architects to channel their creativity into needlework.
- Design some innovative West Bank-style separation walls.
9. There were dire warnings about the fate of the BBC’s Frozen Planet franchise. If the North Pole DOES melt quickly enough, what sort of development possibilities should architects stay alert for?
- Warner Bros Happy Feet World.
- Boutique islands off the coast of Greenland.
- Anyone bribeable in the town of Alert in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut, the closest inhabited place to the pole and almost certainly looking for a rebrand as a premier destination.
10. Norman Foster unveiled his ambitious masterplan for an airport in the Thames Estuary. The Mayor of London gave it his public backing by
- Cycling to the launch party in a toga and declaring himself Emperor of the Sea.
- Arriving at the launch party in a classic Routemaster and declaring himself Lord of The Skies.
- Greeting guests at the launch party with airkisses and airpunches, then forming a human ‘air hub’ in the middle of the room.
11. But if Boris International gets the go-ahead, what would we do with Heathrow?
- Cultural baggage reclaim area.
- Travelator museum.
- Redesignate entire area as affordable housing and start charging people for sleeping on the floor.
12. Finally this year the architectural profession ‘declared war’ on inadequate social housing. How?
- By demonstrating a sort of panicked indifference.
- By warning social housing clients that they’d better start commissioning some projects soon or risk valued architects going into a huff.
- By blowing it up and replacing it with low-rise private housing.
More Ian Martin