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Ian Martin: Visual wealth distribution

Ian Martin
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Tub Haagendas – the lunatic voice of radical design – debates the question: Is architecture a zero-sum game?

MONDAY Design a Labour Brexit, giving it the imposing, melancholy presence of an overgrown Brutalist ruin.

TUESDAY Once again I’ve been beaten to a highly prestigious job by a certain high-profile Spanish architect-engineer.

I’m sure London knows what it’s doing. I mean, why have a sensible transport interchange with buildings that look like buildings designed by yours truly when you can fawn over some insufferable award-winning ‘celebritect’ and get what looks like a giant upturned milking stool covered in shiny pantyhose?

Of course when they said ‘winter gardens’ I TOO should have gone with ‘cinematic assembly point for the Rapture’. Sod them all – especially El Gecko, whose sticky multi-disciplinary fingers are everywhere these days, it seems.

WEDNESDAY I should get approval this week for my enormous yet respectful hotel complex in Mecca, God willing.

It’s in a premium yet ultra-holy site close to the Great Mosque. And with rates starting at around £20,000 a night, guests can rest assured that they are devout and wealthy.

My design philosophy of ‘luxury with humility’ is somehow non-ironic and non-laughable. It has permeated the entire design process, from the luxurious initial consultation to the humble submission of my fee.

THURSDAY To a conference – Is Architecture A Zero-Sum Game? I have a strong suspicion that most of the delegates are here not to find out if architecture’s a zero-sum game but rather to find out what a zero-sum game is.

Luckily the conference chair – a young man wearing the sort of spectacles a trade union leader might have peered through in the 1960s – is able to demonstrate zero-sum principles via a 50-minute slide presentation on Monopoly.

‘So…if a private entity gains a utility – The Waterworks, say – nobody else can have it. Er, also, if I’ve got a thousand pounds AND it’s my birthday and you all have to give me £10, well! That’s…your corresponding loss, we’ll take a break there and reconvene after the interval…’

I’m recalibrating the will to live when I see that next on the bill is my old friend Tub Haagendas, the lunatic voice of radical design. Things have been frosty between us for some time. I lost my temper during a particularly trying lunch when Tub, instead of eating his food, deconstructed it with tweezers, assigning the elements to separate sandwich bags, ignoring me and squeaking slogans, eg ‘Isolated elements, a societal metaphor!’ and ‘You are not what you eat, but what you label!’

Harsh words were exchanged. Words such as ‘pretentious wanker’ and ‘fat philistine’ and ‘fuck having lunch with you ever again’ and ‘my life is a lively experiment, yours but a dull script’ and ‘piss off’ and ‘how childish, I win, ha ha ha, no returns I think’.

Tub’s undoubtedly a prize tosser, but I have to admit he’s good value at these events. Always some nutty idea, and a clueless audience nodding along in panic. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the only person to have won the Pritzker Prize, returned it, then demanded it back only to have it destroyed – Mr Tub Haagendas!’

He shuffles awkwardly to the lectern. No wonder, he’s wearing a suit made of articulated glass. ‘Transparency is worthless unless it is…uncomfortable!’ he says, triumphantly. Then, calmly and madly, he explains exactly why architecture IS a zero-sum game, in numbered sequence.

‘01:01 Space in the world is finite. We forensically look upon what is before us, whether it is a magnificent cathedral or thin air.

01:02 Beautiful buildings are net providers of visual wealth.

01:03 Ugly buildings drain visual wealth from the viewer.

01:04 This illusory ‘balance’ of beauty and ugliness suggests the theoretical existence of a global visual trading economy.

02:01 There is much still to be thought through on this subject.

03:01 Damn, I seem to have shattered a sleeve while gesticulating’.

There’s warm applause, but still. He remains a tosser.

FRIDAY ‘Pleased’ to announce a consultation-led evolution of the façade design for my Leeds skycluster. The elegant clump of towers, originally black, will now in deference to the local community be the colour of forced rhubarb. I ‘hope’ they’re ‘happy’ now.

SATURDAY Self-Care in the Age of Anxiety at the Gherkin and Firkin. Happy Hour is surely some sort of resistance…

SUNDAY Watch some old telly in the recliner. Adjust the horizontal hold.

Illustration by Hanna Melin

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