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Ian Martin: The Bang and Wallop

Ian Martin
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A future-proof masterplan for the City After Money

MONDAY I welcome the call for architects to use their famed ‘soft power’ to protect LGBT+ spaces. 

A friendly word in the ear usually does the trick. No self-respecting client will risk igniting the wrath of the architectural community, which is as feared for its righteous indignation as it is for its ethical, sulky stance on diversity, inclusivity etc. 

TUESDAY I’ve been asked by a developer to design an exquisite cluster of luxupartments in Soho. The site is currently occupied by a plucky little surviving pub. Sexy staff, craft beers, street food and it hosts a twice-weekly trans club in the basement. I reckon once it’s cleared we ought to get about 32 … oh, wait.

I suddenly remember my commitment to LGBT+ spaces, smile ruefully, put a hand on the developer’s shoulder and tell him we need to walk away from this project and let people be people. He smiles back, reminds me he’s just paid a fucking fortune to acquire this property and asks if I’m having some sort of mental episode. 

Of course I pretend I was joking, but still. Did my best. And who’s to say that one or more of the luxupartments won’t be occupied by an ‘LGBT+er’? Now that is progress. 

WEDNESDAY Green light for Madrid’s tallest tower. Only a conceptual image, but the colour makes it look beautifully sinister. 

THURSDAY Red light for Coventry’s highest piazza. I proposed a lofted square around the top third of the cathedral. Philistine planning cockpunnets. 

It seems our entire financial services industry might be about to take back control by moving to Europe

FRIDAY It’s all gone a bit tuppenny-rice-and-treacle down the old Square Mile, ain’t it?

It seems our entire financial services industry might be about to take back control by moving to Europe and being fiercely patriotic from there instead, like those British migrants living in Spain with strong views about the welfare system.

That’s why far-sighted enigmaticisers of epic space, eg yours truly, are putting together a future-proof masterplan for the City After Money. First, a major rebrand – the former financial centre will become a vibrant cultural hub. We’re working on ‘alt-dubs’ too. ‘Square Mile’ carries too much conservative cargo, conjuring up an unsavoury, stifling male world. Amoral 20th-century pinstriped arseholes who’d trade their own mothers on the unregulated mothers market for a quick profit and a bonus at Christmas. Those days are over. Nobody wears pinstripe these days. That Mile’s so squared it’s cubed, m8. 

Plus: it’s not actually square at all. In plan it looks like a haddock, which is our point of departure for a brainstorming session. Instead of Square Mile, could we dub it the Golden Haddock? No. Copyright issues, several chip shops already called that. The Fishy Hub? Echoes of old Billingsgate, too retro. And the Big Net just sounds like a dodgy internet café. We decide to break for lunch while a researcher is despatched to find out if internet cafés even still exist. During lunch we decide to abandon the fish thing altogether – too many bones. 

Naturally, the reuse of buildings isn’t really a problem for a vibrant cultural hub. All Victorian banks will be effortlessly Jamied into deafening brasseries with lots of raw surfaces, called things like Cushty Nosh and The Bang and Wallop. But – and here our focus group puts on long-range vision spectacles – maybe we should start thinking about the ‘cultural legacy’ of financial services. Yeah, in the same way we reassessed our coalfields, steelworks and factories once we decided to shut everything down and get stuff from Amazon instead.

We can turn the City into a vast museum of vanished wealth. People come to cultural hubs to spend, so why not monetise money? We’ll get internationally acclaimed designers to compete for an enormous, operatic, immersive building called The Pound. It will follow money’s journey through history, much like those upsetting museums of slavery. And actually with a very similar narrative.

Elsewhere there will be interactive pop-ups demonstrating how the flow of capital works, from cool gaming arcades for the kids to pop-up bookies for adults. The streets will be paved with mock gold and everywhere, giving the appearance of breathing oxygen into the urban landscape, there will be fluttering magic money trees. 

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist football practice. Turnover 0, Profit 2 after four-dimensional extra economic time and space.  

SUNDAY Self-define as ‘+’ on the spectrum, creating a little more ‘me room’ in the recliner.

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

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