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Ian Martin: Architectural Christmasism

Ian Martin
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The shutters are coming down on all that climate-change malarkey

MONDAY Bosh. I’ve won the design competition to Illuminate The Thames Bridges For Christmas. My synchronised ‘wobbling colourburp’ will be the envy of all festive cities with rivers. Now the tricky part. Persuading the rest of London to switch their lights OFF to get the full effect. 

TUESDAY Christmas lunch for the Worshipful Company of Women in Urbanism. My subject as guest speaker: How to Make Cities Look More Feminist. I patiently guide the audience through my clever ideas, eg pop-up breastfeeding yurts, urban zones incorporating ‘lady spaces’, clearer signage in female-friendly fonts etc. Yet I’m berated afterwards for ‘mansplanning’. This WORLD. 

Uppers’ pet swarm of bees are especially adorable in little Santa hats, their bee-size sleighbells faintly jingling

WEDNESDAY Lunch with minister for post-Brexit cultural affairs, the Hon Aeneas Upmother-Brown. I’ve been invited to discuss a recalibrated trajectory for the Paris Agreement, although I suspect less as an environmental expert than in my capacity for lunch.

As usual Uppers is accompanied by his pet swarm of bees. Today they’re especially adorable in little Santa hats, their bee-size sleighbells faintly jingling. Outwardly, very jolly. But since our spiritual unmooring from Europe, the buzzy little scamps seem to have lost a little of their joie de vivre. These days they patrol the borders of their master’s purview with a grim determination. 

Still, I’m a ministerial guest and entitled to grudging bee deference. As Uppers and I shake hands the impression is of being within a cloud of tiny vuvuzelas – there’s an energy there, but you sense it could turn nasty. In a way I suppose that’s all quite ‘now’, isn’t it? Quite ‘Twitter’. 

Uppers’ remit is to consult on the critical cultural issues facing post-Brexit Britain. Very widely, as it turns out. ‘Shutters are coming down on all that climate-change malarkey and Muggins here has been saddled with the Earthy stuff, mm? What we used to call The Green Bits. Well let me tell you, these are challenging times, and this government will not dodge the tough choices, mm?’ The bees make an ominous growling sound. ‘This is not the time for soft options…’ There’s a sarcastic chorus of mimsy, high pitched buzzing.  Ah, here comes the sommelier…

Two hours later, Uppers seems pretty relaxed at the prospect of a post-truth environmental policy. The bees, drowsy now around their nectar trough, hum contentedly. One of them is telling a joke. At the punchline, the others roll delightedly on the tablecloth, their soft bee chuckles rising like champagne bubbles in the air. 

We order more Armagnac, and Uppers considers a cheeseboard. Not for me, I say. I’m stuffed. I couldn’t possibly manage … ‘Yes, ha ha,’ Uppers interrupts, his finger aloft. ‘You’re right. And I couldn’t possibly manage a fifth Paris Agreement carbon budget EITHER, mm?’ How we laugh. Our ‘late Roman empire’ laugh. The bees, sensing only companionship, send up a little hummed Praetorian salute. 

I point out the irony of our having a civilised lunch with clubbable bees. After all, if we’re abandoning our commitment to tackling climate change, pathogens, pollution, pesticides and habitat loss there won’t BE any bees left soon, will there? A strange stillness falls upon the table, a descending fog of silence. It’s as if Queeny McTeeny, Golden Bobby, Mrs Riefenstahl, Prince Buzzter, Atticus Minor, Honey G, Champney Gal, Humbert Humbert, Spanish Lad and the rest of our tiny companions have suddenly glimpsed their own mortality. 

We must have been lunching for ages. Outside, it has already become dark. 

THURSDAY To a conference, ‘What Is Architectural Christmasism?’ Summary: ‘to meaningfully acknowledge transversal relations across contemporary exigencies of Christmas, architects must address intersectional resonances around the notion of An Architectural Christmas including plural expressions of Christmasist identity (and non-identity) inclusivising specific and non-specific focii on contingencies of ecological Christmas architecturalisms, architecturalist Christmas economies and architextural Christmas technologies, with special regard to oblique lateralism and spatial accords’.

Conclusion: three swift pints in an oblique pub with tinsel, a Christmas playlist and an atmosphere of uncomplicated goodwill. Cheers. 

FRIDAY Ah, Christmas in Whitehall. So great to see the government bringing ‘a little bit of Bethlehem’ to the area by securing it with militarised police in armoured vehicles.  

SATURDAY Three-Way Yulegeist Playoffs. Heritage Yulegeist beats Contemporary Yulegeist (more authentic) but is then acquired by Yulegeist Futures for an exciting redevelopment delivering December 2017, aspirational slogan to follow. 

SUNDAY Mulled wine in the recliner. Christmasist by lunchtime.

Illustration by Hanna Melin

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