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Ian Martin: Y2K2

Ian Martin
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Dusting off some leftover Millennium designs for Cornwall

MONDAY Oh my God, THIS again? Look, I have already justified the terms and conditions under which my interns work. Why these renewed calls for ‘scrutiny’?

Interns have essentially won a shortcut to a world of genius via the authenticity of coffee runs and night shifts. Yes, they’re on minimum wage. No, they don’t get paid for the time they’re on ‘standby’. But they’re young and resilient. They’re in it for the distant prize. One day, if they are diligent and talented enough, they may be auteurs of epic space too.

Everybody knows the deal. Zero Ars Longa.

TUESDAY I’m designing a cluster of tall buildings in Cornwall. The local council officers – gnarly, conker-coloured, VERY casually dressed – have what we used to call a ‘millennium mindset’. They’ve decided now’s the time to bring the area into the 21st century. Adorably, they emphasise the need for an ‘iconic design’.

Perfect. I have about 200 ‘iconic designs’ left over from the Late Blair era, when the Lying Shit’s lust for neoliberal knobs on the skyline was at its most rampant.

WEDNESDAY Strategy meeting in the Gherkin & Firkin with my fixer, Rock Steady Eddie.

We’ve already dusted off an icon for the conker people – a shimmering torqued phallus sheathed in grey-green. How quaint. It seems to squeak: ‘Architecture you can trust, say goodbye to boom and bust! Look at all this lovely glass, everybody’s middle class!’ I remember it was just too late for a Redefining Redcar design competition in 1999.

Eddie’s keen to identify more icon-friendly cold spots. Where else in the world is living 20 years in the past and therefore millennial-gullible?

THURSDAY Busy. Repurposing icons for a warlord in the Caucasus, a posh retirement community in the Isle of Wight, a bank in Kyrgyzstan and a couple of towns in Wisconsin.

Still loads left in the ‘Y2K’ box. A Millennium Belvedere, half a vertical mile of gaudy optimism. A big sort of headlamp with a museum inside. What’s this with the swoopy roof and cool Brittanium cladding? A ‘landmark multicultural centre’. Now that would easily convert to an iconic migrant processing centre…

FRIDAY To Lancashire, where my old mate Jerem, the Labour party’s White Gandalf, is hosting a brainstorming session on how to close the ‘North-South divide’ in public spending. I’m part of a posse of commentators, along with Darcy Farquear’say the epic space correspondent and his architectural dachshund Bauhau.

Of course as we’re in The North it can’t be called anything as elite as a ‘brainstorming session’. That’s the sort of thing people who wear glasses and read books say. Now we’re in ‘oop in Lanc-eh’ we have to pretend that everybody hates cleverness because that automatically makes you a Tory. So instead of a brainstorming session we’re having something called a Jacob’s Join o’ Thoughts n’ Ideas’. Which is meaningless. And they wonder why they’re polling eight points below estate agents.

A woman with a slight northern inflection suggests rebalancing transport investment. She quotes respective regional infrastructure forecasts and the disparity of autonomy over economic development but sounds like a Blairite, so is ignored. I can feel Darcy itching to air his famous ‘Coombrian accent’ – he lived there briefly a few years ago in a terrible sulk and learned how to squint and have pessimistic vowels. I urge continence, but his dander’s up.

‘Ah know ’ow teh close blerdy North-South spendin’!’ he shouts, Bauhau barking along in panic. ‘Spend less int blerdy South and more int blerdy North, common sense!’

Ah know ’ow teh close blerdy North-South spendin’! Spend less int blerdy South and more int blerdy North

Predictably he gets warm applause, though one suspicious Momentum guy, alert as usual for ‘infil-traitors’, wonders why Bauhau is wearing an Alexander McQueen canine basque and little purple ‘Dog Martens’ boots. I tell him Bauhau’s a rescue dog. There’s a beat of silence, then the guy asks why Darcy’s wearing a tweed jumpsuit and a Barbour waxed velvet cape. I tell him Darcy’s a rescue man.

More platitudes, everyone applauds Jerem, he claps them back, cups of tea, swaggering talk about how things will change after the Labour landslide, then a comfortable silence with nobody needing to make eye contact.

SATURDAY Working brunch with Eddie. Or as they call it in the North, ‘early dinner for wankers’.

SUNDAY About to arrange recliner on an east-west axis, remember this will create economic tension, so don’t.

Illustration by Hanna Melin

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