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Space, the new carbon

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Pocket gardens and vast Nazi forests leave Ian Martin dazed and confused at a networking jacuzzi

MONDAY. Rebrand Birmingham as a Muslim tourist destination, highlighting the designated UNESCO World Heritage ‘do-go’ areas.

TUESDAY. I present my thesis, with evidence, peer reviews etc, on how we could retrofit every single building on Earth with a ‘lunar sleeve’ – thereby revolutionising the concept of ‘energy’.

Unfortunately I’m in the pub with a small and frankly less than enthusiastic audience, to wit Darcy Farquear’say the cultural commentator and his overdressed dachshund Bauhau, and wonder not for the first time why I bother with these clowns as both of them are watching Footballers’ Wives’ Kitchen Secrets with the sound off instead.

WEDNESDAY. To a conference – ‘Housing: It’s A Small World, Isn’t It!’  Yeah, I was suspicious too when I saw the exclamation mark. No question? No room for doubt?

But of course, how appropriate. The grim, upbeat theme here in this cramped seminar room at the Royal Institute for the Pop-Uption of British Architects is this: in contemporary urban housing there is no longer room for space.

Small may not be ‘beautiful’ – let’s face it, all that sentimental bullshit went up the chimney last century, along with the chimney itself – but it is dutiful. In the epic space game, ‘small’ is now the tithe we pay to the Margins, the sinister criminal family who control our blurry half-world of racketeered abstract mathematics. Odd to think that even my pioneering 2004 Nanopod© – with just enough room for a shower unit, a sofa-bed and a potted geranium – now seems spatially lavish.

Most of my sinister fellow delegates represent foreign investors. They nod approvingly as the speakers outline the realities that determine our ancient need to create places for people to live in. Space is the new greenhouse gas; too much is poisonous. Space is the new carbon; we must reduce our space footprint. One dick in a haircut takes the sanctimony up a notch, pointing out how responsible we’re all being with our space capture and space offsetting in London.

With a slideshow referencing Fifty Shades of Grey, American Psycho, Triumph Of The Will and that Richard Curtis film with Bill Nighy, he shows how squeezing flats for the poor is morally balanced by massive underground oligarchitecture elsewhere. Images of pocket gardens in Notting Hill and vast Nazi forests underline his point.

I leave none the wiser; I think ‘conference’ these days just means ‘networking jacuzzi’. I mean, of COURSE nobody’s suggesting we return to the ‘bad old days’ of mass-produced, publicly-owned, controlled-rent housing with strictly enforced space standards. That would be madness. As we know, the bad old days were full of violent homophobes and racists in jumpers who were environmentally determined into delinquency by Brutalist municipal arsehole farms designed by Marxist paedophiles. I read the papers too mate, I’m not an idiot.

Still. At least we now have housing demand clearly defined. We know exactly what we need to build, and where. Exciting, really. Like being in on the next big wave of Neo-Modernism. Only this time round the datum isn’t the end user at all. Let the foreign investor speak next!

THURSDAY. Following the hugely lucrative deal that has turned the ‘London Vertical Carousel Your Message Here’ into the ‘London Coca Cola Red-Eye Pleasure Wheel’, my fixer Rock Steady Eddie and I have been thinking.

How easy would it be just to douse this or that nondescript building in a colour and call it commercial livery?

FRIDAY. Easier than you think, is the answer. We’ve already clinched the following deals in Tamworth alone:

Greggs Marie Stopes Clinic (blue wash, with bold yellow internal lighting through a cluster of four windows).

Curry Pot Noodle Methodist Church (mustard yellow overdrench with ORIGINAL CURRY in Wesleyan font splashed across historic facade).

Anusol Civic Centre (soothing blue and white lighting, plus mobile phone mast disguised as applicator).

SATURDAY. Five-a-zeitgeist informal cultural kickabout, with improvised goals and constantly shifting team composition. It’s chaos for 20 minutes until someone from the Guardian turns up and starts live-blogging the action in an amused, detached way, gently ridiculing the basic idea of a cultural ’competition’ but declaring Zaha Hadid’s team the winner anyway, even though she’s not actually there.

Honestly, sport/culture!

SUNDAY. In the recliner. Suddenly aware of how much space I’m wasting. Fall asleep to stop noticing.


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