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Ian Martin: Semi-synthetic tenant lifeforms

Ian Martin
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A future world of synthetic tenants, designed never to complain

MONDAY I’m imagineering a Wall of Winning Bricks for a prime site at Charnock Richards services on the M6.

The ambitious £10m structure will be funded by an exciting ‘brick lottery’, ill-advisedly branded ‘Bricko’ by my fixer Rock Steady Eddie. There’s a £10 entry fee. Everyone wins a brick, and the chance to be part of something visible from the motorway services car park and one end of the Burger King.

It’s like premium bonds but with bricks, which are durable and should increase in value over the years as part of a prominent, culturally invaluable wall. Good luck, ‘wallies’!

TUESDAY I have great sympathy for local authorities these days. It’s just one long grim trudge, isn’t it?

Humiliated by a government that systematically strips away their powers, then jeers at them for being powerless. Despised for their incompetence by hard-working bin users. The one pleasure councils have left is tormenting the homeless. I’m certainly not going to condemn them. Why should I?

Firstly, the world needs more sadistic community initiatives aimed at bringing decent people together. Secondly, let’s be honest, everybody hates a tramp. Thirdly, I’ve been commissioned by the Councils United – No Tolerance 4 Streetblockers! campaign. They’re looking for innovative, spiteful ideas to tackle the current rough sleeping epidemic. I’m working up the following:

  • New ‘stationary charges’ for being still longer than five minutes in a designated ‘urban flow-way’.
  • ‘Clean Zones’ to encourage rough sleepers out of the cold into warmer underpasses which are then sluiced with cold water and disinfectant at random intervals throughout the night.
  • Harshly ridged and cambered concrete benches designed to dissuade sleepers by digging into the spine (adult refugee) or the head (child refugee).
  • Crowdfunded ‘ghost houses’ to lure dossers into a spooky reality horror show hosted by some insufferable arsehole on YouTube.
  • Blunt ‘smart’ spikes on retail ledges that respond to the weight of mattresses and cushions by releasing second-wave spring-loaded stilettos.
  • Thermal-imaging drones that target illegal sleepers with tiny cluster bombs.
  • New legal status of ‘self-littering’ for the inert destitute, occasioning a fine of up to £1,000 or removal to a pound.

Oh, spare me the liberal claptrap. This isn’t about the ‘deserving and the undeserving poor’. This is about the ‘visible and non-visible homeless’. Like a gritty BBC4 drama, nobody HAS to see it.

WEDNESDAY In the endless search for superlative, unique, contemporary architecture, I design the world’s most “😜” tower. 

THURSDAY Lunch with Beansy the nanofuturologist. He’s very excited about a breakthrough in the field of synthetic biology. Frankenscientists have created ‘new organisms with an expanded genetic code’ apparently.

I tune out as Beansy gabbles on about harvestable proteins etc. But then he says ‘Imagine – entirely new semi-synthetic life forms’ and I have an epiphany. Could centuries of building occupants moaning about condensation and not enough storage space be coming to an end?

Why bother socially engineering people with planning and habitat when you can socially engineer them via their DNA? Or even better, socially architect them. A future world of synthetic tenants, designed never to complain…

Beansy’s appalled – ‘Architect is NOT a verb’. I apologise.

FRIDAY Very tense in the Gherkin & Firkin. Phil Cluster the ‘developreneur’ keeps popping in, sinisterly. A former associate is suing him for millions, alleging violent extortion and oh God Phil’s here, making straight for me…

Close up, he smells of East End boozers and boxing clubs. ‘Oi! Want to hack your brains!’ he says. For one terrifying moment I think he means with an actual saw. ‘Where might a certain slag go for lunch where he wouldn’t expect someone to turn up and give him a spanking? Somewhere poncey. Chop chop!’

My mind’s gone blank with fear. Luckily I’m at the bar with Darcy Farquear’say the architecture correspondent, who sees my mute Munch face and rescues the moment by suggesting Bole, the swish new pop-up diner done out like a forest, with treehouse booths and a menu of edible leaves.

Phil nods, then spots Darcy’s architectural dachshund Bauhau. ‘Get that fucking dog away from the bar! It’s unhygienic!’ Well, it certainly is now.

SATURDAY Shoreditch curators’ market. Pick up a lovely Hockney fag packet (still partially Cellophaned) and a limited edition Lubetkin monograph ‘signed’ by a London Zoo penguin.

SUNDAY Mindfulness in the recliner, giving way to mindlessness.

Illustration by Hanna Melin


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