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Ian Martin: Spatial vibecoustics

Ian Martin
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Mellowing out the vibes in the glazed Apple doughnut

MONDAY Today I am exploring my ‘inner Victorian architect’. Morning: design a tall building with natural ventilation. Lunchtime: guzzle a boozy 30-course banquet. Afternoon: experience a primitive private railway system as it struggles to function at the most basic level.

TUESDAY To California, where I’m assessing ‘spatial vibecoustics’ at the headquarters of a well-known ‘technology giant’. The project is nearing completion and it’s time for some finishing touches, some sparkle and spin.

Consultants have been told to refer to the centrepiece building as The Motherboard. Believe me, they’re going to have to come up with a better nickname than THAT. The massive doughnut-shaped building, clad in super-large panels of curved glass, has already been christened, by me, the ‘glazed Apple doughnut’.

My own modest contribution is ensuring that all interior spaces are ‘vibecoustically secure’. It’s difficult to explain vibecoustics unless you’re getting stoned with a mellow Californian project sponsor. Essentially it’s a bit like feng shui, but actually bollocks. I’ll be honest, I just walk from space to space pointing one of those laser pens at the walls, measuring ‘vibe reflection’ and ‘vibe refraction’ and making enigmatic notes in an iPad.

I can see how this might seem dishonest to some people, especially those sceptical about vibecoustics, or those who don’t understand how the industry works. But it’s only by paying a substantial fee that Californian technology giants can be sure they’re not employing amateurs.

WEDNESDAY Oh for God’s sake. My mixed-use scheme has been rejected by gormless councillors in the Scottish Borders for having ‘insufficient design excellence’.

Baffled, I ring the agency that now handles things for the council. They’re still using one of those ‘Wow Factor Handy Calculators’ hastily devised by an optimistic Labour government and handed out to local authorities by PFI contractors as ‘an act of good faith’.

That was when the sun was shining. It’s all about climate control now. I tell the agency to turn the calculator’s thermostat down to ‘austerity’ and voilà, my mixed-use scheme has a slight surplus of design excellence, which of course I’m happy to address.

THURSDAY Even I, the creative force behind London’s Enchanted Forest Bridge, have to admit the project’s pretty much on the ropes.

As criticism grows increasingly preposterous – the bridge is pointless, it would cost too much, the procurement was dodgy, it looks laughable – so more and more opportunistic gits pile on, desperate to grab a little limelight for themselves. Judges. Financial ‘experts’. Criminal investigators. May I remind you this is very much a toll-paying People’s Bridge, which makes these bastards ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE.

They say that a prophet is not without honour save in his own country. Well, it’s exactly the same for an imagineer of magic urban arborealism in his own country. LET the clueless Brit shitterati sneer at my chic pedestrian bridge with a forest on top of it. I’m getting plenty of interest from enlightened patrons overseas, who appreciate how the power of nature reduces pollution and increases value, and how greenery slathered over buildings relieves architecture of any responsibility to ‘look good’.

In China, for instance, they’re building whole forest CITIES. Never mind a bit of elevated woodland over the Thames, they’ve got trees poking out of skyscrapers, housing estates covered in ‘smart moss’, clumps of cascading shrubs the size of bloody CLOUDS. Vertical urban forests, diagonal urban forests, ‘inside out’ urban forests. All sucking tons and tons of carbon dioxide out of the air and creating a gentle atmosphere of oxygenated goodness for the discerning urban forest-dweller.

Inspired, I am submitting plans for a Green Science Knowledge Composium in Blingnang. It includes an ivy-clad agrirobotics laboratory and a hortiprosthetics workshop mantled in Russian vine.

FRIDAY At times like this you really find out who your friends are. My mate Amy Blackwater the ecomentalist, for example. She firmly believes that trees are better than motorists and that enchanted forest bridges are better than roads.

So Amy and her posse of radicalised Crouch End yummy mummies, ‘The Balacavas’, blocked traffic on the Hammersmith flyover in the early hours with a protest pop-up spinney. A point well made. God bless you, Balacavas.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist architectural football. Commodity, Firmness and Virtue Signalling 3, Truth, Beauty and Identity Politics 3, match abandoned after marketing pitch invasion.

SUNDAY Suspend enchantment, in the recliner.

Illustration by Hanna Melin

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