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Ian Martin: The Mexican Ha-Ha

Ian Martin
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‘Now he apparently has oceanic construction budgets in his gift, I too am ready to serve’

MONDAY To a conference: Inclusive Design Is Dead – Long Live Immersive Design. Summary: once you’re in, you’re in.

TUESDAY A Brutalist bus station in The North is to be restored as some sort of ‘event space’ or ‘youth detention centre’, I forget which. Always so pleasing when a purpose-built building is repurposed. 

There’s to be a series of fundraisers in its concrete vastness, starting with the lavish annual Association of Bookmakers dinner. How very fitting. A form-followers’ function.

WEDNESDAY One good thing about the smashing of our global certainties into a million pieces is that there are suddenly a lot more niche gigs.

Last week I had never heard of a ‘vibe shepherd’, and would have been hard pressed to tell you what one did. Obviously now that I AM one I can assure you that vibe shepherding is a vital placemaking skillset that puts design quality at the heart of the procurement process.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the project I’m vibe-shepherding is in King’s Cross. Another international media organisation wants a bulbous cathedral of self-worship, brimming with people wearing shorts in all weathers and those luminous plimsolls.

Of course a ‘conversational process’ has replaced old-fashioned ‘planning’ in Areas of Outstanding Magic Urban Realism such as King’s Cross. These days, applicants are invited to ‘talk around’ their vision for regeneration and investment. Then a team of civic enablers is invited to offer appropriate assistance. Civic enablers are not so crass as to demand ‘drawings’ of the proposed building. Architecture is a private business, after all. What a gigantic silo of social capital looks like is of no concern to anyone but the client.

Civic enablers DO however require digitised reassurance that high-end progressive types will be drawn into the area. The ‘architecture’ is usually just the glimpsed corner of a big tent, for whatever the building is ‘like’ it will certainly have a pop-up pavilion contractually attached. Enter the vibe shepherd, who with the crook of magic urban realism will induct an assortment of gentrifying humanity. Desirable, dynamic bros and sistren, each with a notional security pass to the top floor. For this scheme, I’ve deployed the latest tool in the vibe shepherding toolsatchel: ‘imagineered wheelfall’. This focuses on those super-interesting people who arrive for work on wheels – a key magic urban realism signifier.

It’s a doddle. By lunchtime I’ve finished the rendering. Very pleased. As aspirational as a pair of tailored Moleskine trousers. In the background, a blurry flapping corner of a pavilion, suggesting perhaps Peruvian street food, or a craft bar where you’re served by life-size 8-bit video game characters. Heading towards it, my vibey flock. To wit:

Emoticon wrangler on treadmill scooterbike. Media clickfarmer on giant skateboard that magically fits historic tramlines. Publicity technician on antique tricycle. HR animateur on ‘airped’. Retweet aggregator in self-propelled Flintstones automobile. Spatial safety manager on disco rollerblades.

Sweet. Fistbump self.

THURSDAY In the morning, design a tiny, whimsical woodland cabin. Et voilà: an elegant ascetic’s retreat. It feels invigoratingly spiritual, I must say.

In the afternoon, second, darker thoughts. I put a chemical toilet in my tiny woodland cabin and turn it into a prototype urban hostel for one. Obviously for planning purposes I’ll retain a fashionably obfuscating sylvan poshness. Probably call it something Scandinavian-sounding. Gluggahytte. Clammaden. Hyggepod. Nobody ever checks this stuff.

FRIDAY ‘If we do not the fuck learn, how can we the fuck grow? And if we do not the fuck grow, how can we get any the fuck bigger?’

Those are not the words of Spinoza, or Sartre. No. Those are the words of my client, President-elect of the United States of America and Scottish national treasure – Trump, Laird o’ Pussiegrabbie. Let me tell you, I for one have taken those words to heart. A few weeks ago, when it seemed improbable that Mr Trump would get anywhere near the levers of power, I too was sceptical. Now he apparently has oceanic construction budgets in his gift, I too am ready to serve.

Ideas I have faxed over to Mr Trump’s personal Golden Amstrad today: huge travelling press pen that looks like a gilded go-go cage; rustbelt internment camps but call them ‘intern secondment programs’; Mexican ha-ha.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist trapped windfarm playoffs. Fracking Gasburps 2, Biomethane Grassfarts 0.

SUNDAY Conscience shepherding, in the recliner.

Illustration by Hanna Melin


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