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Ian Martin: My new brand – ‘woke and bespoke’

Ian Martin
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‘Premium’ fast-track planning for developers prepared to pay a business class bribe

MONDAY That time of year again: the annual brand audit. Always the same. A horrible little festival of self-loathing, concluding with a firm resolution to diversify more next year. 

Diversify. I swear, if I diversified any harder I’d atomise. So far today I’ve banged out a pop-up glamping shtetl (Wales), a series of Oculus Rift re-education kiosks (Russia) and an invisible abortion clinic (US).

TUESDAY Brand audit in the Gherkin and Firkin with my fixer Rock Steady Eddie. It’s a casual drop-in affair, with drinks and nibbles provided. By me, apparently.

What’s the point of self-auditing? The whole world’s going through a brutal existential skin-slough at the moment and nobody knows what the arse will happen next. It’s very difficult for auteurs of the built environment – however sensitive – to get their bearings, I tell Eddie, as I stagger back with the seventh round and some crisps.

Not that I think my public image management has been too shabby this year, actually. Remember how I endeared myself to the ultra-liberal cycling timber lobby (artists and architects earning more than 500k pa) with that fabulous wooden velodrome? AND, I remind him, how I firmly ingratiated myself with the alt-right parametricists? My exquisitely heartless 48 storeys of prime Manhattan air and space encased in bright stone and dark glass has already been christened the Accrual World Tower. Even President-elect Trump commended it, and he knows a great deal about exquisite heartlessness.

Yeah, as brands go mine’s pretty wide-spectrum. ‘Exactly my point, son,’ says Eddie, cheese-and-onionly. ‘One end of the whatever, genre rainbow to the other. Thin, see. Like the Maginot Line. Or whichever one it was the Nazis broke through and Oliver Reed was in it, have a squint at what’s on the Specials Board, we might be here a while yet…’

By nightfall we’ve been joined by my old friend the culture correspondent Darcy Farquear’say and his retro-Modernist dachshund Bauhau, who are adorably dressed as different periods of David Bowie. Darcy looks poised in his Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit, though he’s not getting any younger, or svelter. Bauhau is reassuringly neurotic in his tiny Ashes To Ashes Pierrot costume.

A consensus is reached. My best bet in an uncertain world is NOT to diversify, but to intensify. Darcy, tottering on glam suede stackheels, predicts a return to affordable craft, ‘a reworking of what creative people like us are best at. Inexpensive buildings with a savvy, personal touch. Architecture that’s woke, and bespoke. Almost…’ I hold up a hand, imploring him not to say ‘woke-itecture’. He pretends he wasn’t going to. ‘Honestly love, in a world becoming blander by the day, next year’s … what’s it going to be all about, Bauhau?’ Yip yip. ‘Woke and Bespoke, that’s right’. Yap ruff-ruff. ‘Yes it is, oh yes it is …’

WEDNESDAY Eddie’s fascinated by the idea that bespoke ‘sort of whatever, post-truth architecture’ can compete with the juggernauts of civic delivery. He’s setting up, ‘paperwork pending’, a company called Cathita. Wait, that sounds like …

‘Precisely. Like a whatever, conduit. A conduit of excellence, yeah? I go in first, give ’em a quote for an off-the-shelf award-winning gallery, say. Find out what Capita would charge, I put in a competitive bid from Cathita – let’s face it, could be a bad line anyway … then YOU swan in with your even more competitive bid but with all the bits on, the whatever, wokey-wokey shit, client thinks wallop, I can get it cheap AND poncey! Design and build contractors come and go but as they say: ars longa twingo bingo.’

THURSDAY Shocked to discover the government’s considering a ‘premium’ fast-track planning service for developers who are prepared to pay a business class bribe, yet Eddie hasn’t factored this into our new world of woke and bespoke quality environment delivery.

FRIDAY Our new one-two trick. Eddie pitches as Cathita, I then pitch as ‘Cathita Bespoke’ offering low-low prices on made-to-measure building solutions. Followed up with a goodwill cash bribe in anticipation of the new premium planning system. Bosh. I think we’ve landed a woke and bespoke overflow prison in Shropshire.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist fast-track planning hurdles quarter-finals. Cui Woko 3, Ars Longa Twingo Bingo 0.

SUNDAY Media review in the recliner. Darcy’s done a big piece in the Creative on Sunday about ‘woke-itecture’. What a world of trickery. And thickery. And dickery.

Illustration by Hanna Melin

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