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If it ain’t broke, amend it

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Gadgets can be fun until the free trial ends, discovers Ian Martin

MONDAY ‘Just a bit of fun’ says Beansy the nanofuturologist, with a dismissive wave of his hand. ‘Obviously it’s not a serious design tool…’

He’s talking about the beta version of Perlaastica, a ‘real-life Photoshop’ toy he invented at the weekend. Basically, you capture a lump of the built environment using a special 3-D laptop camera, then ‘open it’ in miniaturised real space, adding or changing whatever you fancy using ‘a vast library of downloadable elements’ – in other words, the internet.

Then you simply press DONE and Perlaastica spits the amended lump back into the real world, where it exists until the free trial expires.

I ask Beansy casually if I can borrow it for a week. No problem, he says, just don’t do anything stupid. I return his dismissive hand wave.

TUESDAY In the morning, capture a smallish corner of a Canary Wharf office building, open it in Perlaastica then quickly remodel the miniaturised real space into a primitive ‘oasis at night’ with giant moths and robot camels, while security’s attention is focused on his pie.

The robot camels are quite crude – I nicked them from a 1970s Israeli comedy – but let’s face it they look a lot more entertaining than corporate polished concrete. It’s thrilling to watch the reaction of passers-by, who seem cheered by the randomised temporary reality.

Also a relief to discover Perlaastica can’t capture and amend bits of people. A weirded-out finance director staggers from the building, wondering why half her office space is now a surreal oasis. Everyone shrugs and assumes the building has been acquired by interests in the Middle East.

In the afternoon, I test Perlaastica’s historical reach by causing an archived copy of the scissor arches from Wells Cathedral to appear in M&M’s World, London. Not a flicker. People think it’s just routine maintenance.

In the evening, try my hand at architectural busking on the South Bank, coughing up bits of the Festival of Britain from 1951 for delighted tourists, quickly reverse-modding back to the contemporary Festival of Aviva when the police swing by.

WEDNESDAY Drunk with power now. I’m in the London Standard at last! After months of trying to raise my profile with mad plans for elevated cycleways and stacked ‘metrodorms’ I finally make it into print as ‘London’s 3-D graffiti artist’.

My fixer Rock Steady Eddie is quoted as a source close to me. I’m called ‘Urban2000’, apparently I’m doing this to challenge perceptions of built reality and all commercial enquiries should go through him.

The article features pictures of my latest Perlaastica amends: a large section of Portsmouth’s vanished Tricorn Centre repurposed as a new tower for Westminster Abbey; an ironic ring of Leylandii around Euston station; an Art Deco facade on Lewisham KFC; the Trajan Arch in the middle of Seven Dials; medieval stained glass enclosing a pod on the London Eye.

I wonder how long celebrity lasts these days.

THURSDAY Oh God, people are so gullible. Yes of COURSE there are 326 anonymous entries in the design competition for a new Thames crossing at Nine Elms, dummies. Just under 300 of them are mine.

I captured the air over the river and spent the day in a miniaturised real-space Perlaastica workshop, taking snapshots.

I’ve got one that looks like a horizontal Niagara Falls, one that looks like a hairbrush, one that just looks like a redacted word in a confidential report … Wow, imagine if anonymous design competitions were actually like this.

FRIDAY Beansy calls. ‘This you in the Standard, and all over the bloody world of epic space?

Not happy. ‘I told you not to do anything stupid…’ I protest my innocence, extravagantly. ‘Oh, really. So this isn’t you then, using Perlaastica to create exciting new artist’s impressions of an Arctic Metropolis.’

I tell him, honestly, that I haven’t been to the Arctic recently, with or without his stupid gadget. He tells me, honestly, that I clearly captured the interior of a freezer and used that as the notional Arctic site. Which apparently is an unforgiveable trespass against the sacred law of genius loci.

SATURDAY Perlaastica’s back with Beansy – he sent a cab for it – and all my free trial creations have vanished in a huff, leaving a much more boring London and a massively diminished bridge competition.

SUNDAY Unchanged, in the recliner.

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