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Ian Martin: Rewildable Air Theory

Ian Martin
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I get environmental credit, massive fee. Bosh

MONDAY To the Gherkin & Firkin. My fixer Rock Steady Eddie has been told of a trillionaire who’s currently harvesting investment money to create a ‘global travelopolis’. 

Apparently, ‘this geezer’s a visionary. Him and his mates need somewhere to park some silly money and now he’s thinking big. Remember that massive airport city you banged out last year, that whatever, aero-faero-op-op-bloody-opolis? Right, that’s what chummy has in mind, like a big airport but with Arabic skyscrapers and so forth, obviously has to look world class and – here’s your future proofing – with them whatever, hyperpods coming and going, yeah? Hyperloop. Funded by the hyper-RICH, see? Got to happen, son. Only so many posh flats you can build with moody cash. Go on, get ’em in, we need a whatever, framing concept, stat…’

By the time I return from the bar, I’ve nailed it. Bring the aerohyperloopopolis to Brexit London and call it a ‘flight capital’.   

TUESDAY My Vertical Urban Allotment, a bolt-on West Side Story fire escape with planters, will I hope show how community gardening can heal society. 

In these fractured times it’s important for people to find common purpose in tomato grow-bags and runner beans. A vertical urban allotment, built with expensive antique iron, would require serious levels of community fundraising and would therefore be especially healing.

WEDNESDAY Meanwhile I note with weary cynicism that one of my early works, the Potato Ricer in Tamworth, has been sold to something called Proper Properties, a Lancashire student housing consortium.

I hope they paid a fortune for it. My signature design for the Potato Ricer remains the global benchmark for utensil-themed architecture, its tub-like form blossoming into a cantilevered rooftop bar in the shape of a pressing handle. Despite persistent, impertinent questions concerning its structural probity, it’s still the tallest building in Tamworth’s Rhomboidal Mile and a verified landmark. So put that up your pipe, haters. 

I admit that a cantilevered rooftop bar in the shape of a pressing handle was architecturally ambitious. It has been years since the bar, once a stylish Continental affair called Pression, has been deemed safe enough to enter. And in the 12 weeks it WAS open I concede that my amusing ‘licensed premise’ of having a room for the consumption of alcohol set at an angle of 30 degrees was sorely tested. However, I will say this. Only last month an intoxicated urban explorer fell to his death from the roof – tragically demonstrating the bar’s irresistible appeal to Tamworth’s aspirational young people, even now. 

Proper Properties will inevitably re-do the Potato Ricer’s original ‘dotcom-boomer’ interior. It will be capsulised into those ‘ensuite domestic safe livespaces’ required these days by the parents of students. Who knows what will happen to the bar? At the moment it remains a definitive shape in the air. And that, after all, is how legacy works. It’s a fragile thing. We are mere dust and shadow, and all our creations but shapes in the air.

THURSDAY A client has acquired a beaten-up old farm near Ipswich. Buildings on the site include an old windmill. He wishes to create a ‘premier destination’. 

A windmill adds an average 24 per cent in tourism value to a farm-themed attraction, but only if it’s ‘working’. It will cost a fortune to restore the windmill. Then there’s the arseache of acquiring grain and milling it into flour to be sold in preposterous little retro artisan bags. Running pretentious baking workshops. Educationally hosting groups of bored, volatile schoolchildren. 

How might the windmill be repurposed in order to qualify as ‘working’? First I must set up an environmental charity called Rewilding The Air.

FRIDAY Sketch out plans for an air mill. Windmill visitors purchase bags of Filthy London Air in nearby gift shop, mount gutsy, sustainable wooden scaffold to top of windmill. Filthy bag air ‘induced’ via impressive-looking ‘crystallising tower’. Windmill arms stationary in interest of public safety. Grindstone operated by volunteer jobseekers. Crystallised air ground into ‘wheat air’ (breathable, oxygen-rich) and ‘chaff air’ (carbon grit, diesel dust). 

Visitors leave with bag of rewildable air to release back into arms of Mother Nature. Client gets 24 per cent tourism income bump. I get environmental credit, massive fee. Bosh. 

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist nostalgia football. New Town Blues 1, Brutalist Merseybeat 2. 

SUNDAY Create autoflopopolis in recliner.

Illustration by Hanna Melin

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


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