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Ian Martin: Been there, named that

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin looks back to get ahead

MONDAY Invent the term ‘retrotextualism’ to describe how blighted communities forego development control in return for buildings shaped vaguely like the places their grandparents worked in.

Retrotextualism. Yes, very pleased with myself. Not just for the fashionable cynicism, but for the fashionable fatalism.

TUESDAY Become a global eminence on retrotextualism by using the word in a tweet, along with ‘hypercapitalism’. There’s really only space left for a few meaningful prepositions, which gives the argument a sort of gritty urgency.

If they had any money to go with their gullibility, young people would make excellent clients

WEDNESDAY To the Institute of Plasmic Arts for the launch of My City Too Doh – A Mandemfesto. It’s a list of shrill demands from London teenage boys, solicited by eager metropolitan liberals and rendered in a suitably challenging font. The target group want ‘whoever does London’ to pledge the following:

  • Affordable housing, as close to a Nando’s as possible.
  • London is our ‘living room’, it’s important to include all the things we like (cushions, pizza, Wi-Fi, the list is endless) so maybe put a roof over it or something.
  • We need to be involved in the design of our neighbourhoods, just run all planning stuff past us in future? Dropbox fine, we’ll get to it later, trust.
  • Neighbourhoods should feel as safe as central London, so let’s have lighting at Leicester Square levels, all paths widened somehow and proper clubs.
  • Public transport in the outer boroughs is rubbish compared to central, so either put the Tube in or sort us an Uber account on the rates or whatever?
  • Look after London. It’s important that all the air is clean so shampoo it or something every week? Trees and grass, nice. Buildings – fix the bits that break etc. It’s important for future generations of older people too, which we’ll be at some point, jokes, as IF *puke-face emoticon*

To be honest I find the guileless optimism adorable. If they had any money to go with their gullibility, young people would make excellent clients.

THURSDAY I’m designing an ultra-contemporary residential development for a post-industrial town. It doesn’t matter which one, it’s in the North.

Huge ‘warehouse-style buildings’ are a deferential nod (a touch of the cloth cap, let us say) to the town’s proud industrial heritage. I like to think that in some way we sculptors of inhabited form can restore local pride to the poor souls left behind by deindustrialisation. Perhaps we may rekindle a collective spirit through the new industry of mass-produced apartments.

In a way these huge warehouse-style buildings are similar to the great municipal housing endeavours of post-war Britain, but built by the private sector for those who can afford it. Ownership and tenure are irrelevant here. The important thing is that they are landmark retrotextual buildings.

FRIDAY In the morning, design a residential block for a student housing provider in Lancashire, remembering to make it look vaguely like the nearby linoleum factory, demolished in 1981. In the afternoon, design an assisted-living asylum for developers in a faded East Coast town that sort of resembles the old fish market, long gone.

In the evening, design a ‘statement dwelling’ for a rich drug-dealing architecture fan in Nottinghamshire, encasing the faux-Moderne tower in an antique iron gantry as a plangent callback to the colliery that once stood there.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist retrotextual football. Neo-Retrotextualism 0, Post-Retrotextualism 0. Match abandoned after pre-textualist shoot-out.

SUNDAY Massive piece in the Creative on Sunday examining retrotextualism. I say ‘examining’. On one page they’ve got my old mate Darcy the epic space correspondent and his dachshund Bauhau yapping about how great a word it is. On another page Sloane Bagshawe, architecture correspondent for Builty Pleasures, and her miniature Essex assistance pony Dennis take the piss.

As Darcy and Bauhau put it: ‘Retrotextualism has a rolling cadence, a misty yearning that speaks eloquently across time and space, that yip-yaps of pastoral melancholy and the bittersweet elegiac woof woof, oh it’s a very good word, what’s a very good word, retrotextualism, yes you are, you are, oh yes you are…’

The hateful donkey bastards meanwhile, in common with all my critics, can only see ugliness and negativity. ‘Retro what? He’s having a honk-hee-honk laugh. You can’t analyse the world of the built environment simply by inventing vacuous portmanteau-hee-haw bullshit you muppet, do one.’

In a way, part of me is glad print media is on its last legs.

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