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Ian Martin: Goodbye, everyone

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin is packing up the recliner and calling time on the five-a-zeitgeist architectural football

MONDAY ‘They just looked so sort of…peaceful?’ The housekeeper’s voice trails off and up, as much in fondness as in grief. ‘It sounds silly but after all the worry they’d had recently, it was just nice to see them together, if you…’

The coroner gives her a kindly smile, waits for her to blow her nose and carry on. She’s telling the inquest how the alarm was raised when nobody appeared for afternoon tea in the dining room of Apocrita Hall. The rough bran scones had gone cold. The glass of brandy, the little troughs of fortified nectar. All stood forlorn, untouched in the ticking silence.

Old Gubbins the gardener discovered them. Their special place. The Modelry. The Hon. Aeneas Upmother-Brown, eyes closed, nestled into his favourite Jasper Johns beanbag. His pet bees around him on the floor in a perfect circle, like the peoples of Europe on a flag. Everything deathly quiet, says Gubbins, apart from ‘some bollocks’ still playing on the hi-fi which the coroner, consulting the investigating officer’s report, confirms as Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.

TUESDAY After the inquest, the soul-searching. Obviously the tabloids have taken the shortest route. ‘Minister’s Brexit Suicide’, ‘Eurotoff Remainer Dead In Shed’, ‘RIP Bee MP’ etc. The broadsheets take a more nuanced view. The Telegraph’s obituary pays tribute to Upmother-Brown’s long political career. ‘That ended, tragically, in his appointment as Minister for Pop-Uption which, while doing much to obscure the government’s inaction on social housing, was itself eclipsed by a Brexit which threatened the very future of his beloved bee swarm’. The Times reveals that the Home Office recently served notice of deportation on four of his European Dark Bees – Buzzfeet, Fräulein X, Bibi and Early Sting – who had been part of the swarm since infancy. The Guardian of course has commissioned a hot take from some contrarian teenage YouTube personality. Summary: ‘forget dead cis white males, Our Precious Earth can ill afford to lose yet more bees’.

WEDNESDAY A mournful visit to Apocrita Hall for a last browse in the Modelry, a tumbledown old Victorian barn ‘remixed’ in the modern ‘mash-up’ style – slabs of ancient pocked timber seamlessly patched with dark Russian steel and dark Austrian glass – by one of those smart Londonist architects who consider themselves ‘spatial DJs’. 

One of dear old U-B’s final wishes was for his close acquaintances to choose a memento, so here we are, shuffling quietly about in a place that once literally buzzed with happiness. How the bees loved to waggle in and out of the scores of miniature buildings here, unbuilt masterpieces dreamed by the world’s greatest architects and then forgotten. 

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bungalow for a Misunderstood Sex Beast. Le Corbusier’s Villa Without Floors or Meaning. Lubetkin’s spiral bus park coiled tightly around Nelson’s Column, the Routemasters packed in like Spangles. I decide upon a lovely model of Zaha Hadid’s Seoul-Pyongyang Maglev Terminus, mischievously proposed for a site in a future DMZ transformed into the world’s biggest wind farm.  

THURSDAY The funeral is unbearable. U-B’s honeycomb casket. The 27 tiny coffins lofted above it on air jets, hovering one last time around their master. Oh God, now the organist’s playing Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, the Jefferson Starship classic that ‘U-B and His Bees’ always did on karaoke nights. The whole congregation wordlessly humming the chorus through our tears.

FRIDAY What a year of loss it’s been. Upmother-Brown and co. Bauhau the architectural dachshund. Darcy the epic space correspondent, now self-curating in Venice. Conservactionist Dusty Penhaligon, gone to bother Australia. Rock Steady Eddie the fixer, held on unspecified charges in Guantanamo Bay. Beansy the nanofuturologist, accidentally vaporised in a failed HS2 hyperloop experiment.

Now comes dreadful news of poor, dear Amy Blackwater the ecomentalist saboteuse in a balaclava. Defiant to the last, she has perished in the rubble of a new Trump Tower in Abu Dhabi. A disgusting building destroyed in the name of common sense but, oh Amy. What a waste. If only you’d waited until the fat fuck was actually IN it.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist architectural football. Less 1, More 1. A draw on aggregate.

SUNDAY The recliner’s packed up and stowed away. I’m taking a Leave of Absence for a few months. See you next summer, maybe? The BEST to you and yours this Christmas! Ian x

Epic Space, an anthology of Ian Martin’s columns for the AJ, is published by Unbound

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