Ian Martin puts clear yellow water between the Tories and the Lib Dems
MONDAY Working up an innovative higher education complex. I’m incorporating a boating lake to explore the relationship between architecture and pedalogogy.
TUESDAY The Lib Dems have asked me to differentiate their housing policy in the run-up to the general election. They need to put as much clear yellow water between them and the Tories as possible. I suggest they call for 10 new ‘garden cities’ - more than double the number of garden cities their Coalition partners want.
They should also make explicit their markedly different attitude towards nimbyism. While the Conservatives are delaying the consideration of new town proposals on behalf of voters who don’t want them, the Lib Dems should say they’re devolving opposition to new towns to the communities themselves.
This would bring genuine, local democracy to the grassroots nimby movement and pull focus away from the party’s ‘sexism’ problem. Opportunistic gropers prefer the confines of a black cab on expenses to the fluoresence of a public meeting.
My scribbled note says: ‘Think big. Think local. Put all the local thoughts together to form joined-up thinking. Big Ideas. Big ambitions for local people. Local ambitions for big people. Return to your constituencies and prepare for a garden city there. But also, prepare to listen to those who don’t want a garden city. Nod along. Maybe forget the garden city thing for now.’
Say what you like about the Lib Dems, they listen. I notice they’re already following my recommendation that they should call the Oxford-Cambridge corridor the ‘brainbelt’ so that nobody thinks they’re trying to be too clever.
WEDNESDAY Finally cracked the ‘design narrative’ for a scheme in Bloomsbury. Planners insist the building must ‘describe a literary journey’ as it will be visible from TS Eliot’s old office. Wankers. This obsession with context will be the death of us all.
I mean, it’s only a crappy hotel at the moment. It was originally an inn, which is essentially what I’m restoring it to. Except instead of rugged early 19th century features presented without irony, polished concrete or glass it will have all three in its latest incarnation as a members club.
My design narrative is that of a gothic novel. Imagine ‘ghost horses’ entering the bar via a converted stable block. Perhaps we glimpse them through the glazed elevation, with its heavy lateral emphasis, and ask ourselves ‘why the long facade?’ Oh, just realised my design narrative is a joke, not a novel. Wonder if I’ll get away with it?
THURSDAY A LOT of client interest in my latest temporary urban intervention. Like all great urban interventions it’s global, it’s portable and Slavoj Žižek’s written an essay about it.
Rock Steady Eddie the fixer suggested it. We were in the pub, half-watching the latest pre-democracy protests in Hong Kong, or possibly some anti-Russian ones in Ukraine. I don’t know, the sound was off. ‘Jesus, I bet traffic’s a right mare round that lot,’ he said. ‘You’d think by now they’d be turning them big city centre squares into flats and moving the demos out of town like them so-called shopping centres nobody goes to any more, hold up I’ve just had a whatever, brainwave. Get ‘em in, son, I’m just gonna jot something down in the toilet…’
Two scotches later and we’ve sketched out the OccuPop, a demountable public square designed specifically for the expression and containment of mass disobedience. No need for beatings and water cannon, which can sometimes be a PR nightmare for blue-chip destinations such as London and may affect inward investment, house prices, etc. Our motto: ‘Whether you’re fighting the power or BEING it - let’s take this outside!’
FRIDAY Just about to sign off on a detailed scheme - three modest superluxury nodal events on the site of a former cottage hospital - when I have this nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten something. I hate that.
There’s a strong sense of arrival at the front, and key connectivity at the back. Quality benchmarks: check. Legibility: you bet. Dynamic engagement with the environment: please, that’s basic.
Remembered just in time. I’d forgotten to stick the architecture in! What an idiot. All sorted now. Bunged in some leftover parametric stylings from the Bloomsbury scheme. Phew.
SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Trolled Relativism 2, Space Ageism 3.
SUNDAY Experiment with the long-term redistribution of population density by spending all day in the recliner.