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Ian Martin: Not with a bang

Ian Martin
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Bauhau the architectural dachshund has very little time left

MONDAY To the Royal Institute for the Pop-Uption of British Architects. Impressive, how the old place is positively embracing its decline to create a truly green urban landmark.

The famous Early Mentholated façade these days is cloaked in dark ivy, Virginia creeper and bindweed. Birds nest in deep cracks. Tufts of grass are visible here and there in the ancient guttering; campanula spills from the hefty bas relief of Architectural Aspiration. 

The rooftop, long a de facto wild garden, is these days home to several families of urban foxes, who come and go via a disused spiral staircase at the rear, once used by the president’s butler. 

Old Lancelot the gatekeeper lowers the tiny drawbridge over the decorative nano-moat. I cross the threshold and sign in beneath the ancient Prayer of Intercession carved into the wall: ‘O mighty gods of Truth and Beauty, grant us those rewards which are commensurate with the outcomes we facilitate. Amen’.

Lancelot unlocks the huge bronze door to the Corridors of Power. ‘Ah sir, such strange goin’s-on within these old battlements. I ent seen er like since ’em mad days when Old Mrs Thatcher ruled mm world beyond Castle Portlandish. Aye, when ’em Knights o’ Community Architecture with ’em fearsome ’ighlights and Filofaxes did ’old us all in thrall, sir…’ I notice a nasty welt on his face. He recoils from my enquiring gaze. ‘Lady Jean, she … she ’as company today, sir …’ 

Glossop grunts and quaffs deeply from his mead horn. What does he care? As president-in-waiting he’s here on a ‘courtesy visit’

I make my way to the august Hall of Mirrors to find Institute president Lady Jean Donught in a leather and bearskin medieval warrior two-piece and sensible flats. With her is someone I know only by reputation: the fearsome Earl of Glossop. He stands legs astride as if about to give a TED talk, one hand resting menacingly on his pommel, the other adjusting his spectacles.

I’m not sure I care for his opening remarks, which essentially enquire as to who the fuck I am and what the fuck I want. Lady Jean intercedes, explaining my appointment as a corporate brand repairer on a fixed day rate plus travel and subsistence. ‘He’s come to look at our public image pipework, Benjy. Have a tinker with the old marketing engine.’ Glossop grunts and quaffs deeply from his mead horn. What does he care? As president-in-waiting he’s here on a ‘courtesy visit’. He doesn’t get the keys to the place until September. ‘Aye, and then let my enemies quake, for I am sworn to work to systemically innovate our institutional infrastructure, making it fit for the 21st century.’

I point out we’re nearly a fifth of the way through that already. He’d be better off reworking the infrastructure for the 22nd. Glossop offers to rework my face. Lady Jean ushers me away for private counsel. ‘Barbara, come!’ her voice echoes as a goshawk lands upon her fisted gauntlet. ‘Time to reposition ourselves in the consciousness of the profession!’

We leave the Earl of Glossop shouting angrily at someone on his phone. ‘They think there’s a culture of fear here NOW? Ha ha ha, poach me a dolphin!’

TUESDAY Initial recommendation for rebooting the RIPBA: ‘superlux’ membership with personalised virtual reality lion rampant avatar hovering at  member’s shoulder. 

WEDNESDAY My friend Darcy the epic space correspondent is in a terrible state. His muse and constant companion Bauhau the architectural dachshund has very little time left. 

Bauhau’s end-of-life care team have diagnosed kidney failure but Darcy is convinced Bauhau’s been dying of a broken heart ever since the Walkie Talkie was completed three years ago. 

In an excoriating column ghostwritten by Darcy at the time, Bauhau dismissed it as ‘an escalating yip yip airpunch of woof woof greed that in any yip yap sane world would be grr dumped by the Birmingham stretch of the M6, not be woof yap fisting everyone’s view of the yap grap bloody London skyline’.

THURSDAY You should come and see him, says Darcy. You know. Before… 

FRIDAY Still haven’t. Hypocritical, to be honest. The horrible things I’ve said about him. Can’t. 

SATURDAY Do. Shocked. Bauhau’s hardly there. Behind the film of drugs, the merest hint of recognition and a little noise in the throat. ‘Wanker,’ he seems to be murmuring. ‘Wanker’. 

Shh, says Darcy, let it out. Takes me a second to realise he’s talking to me. 

SUNDAY Bauhau’s dead.

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

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