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The Twelve Step Plan

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Ian Martin learns how to preserve ‘character’, and how to accidentally demolish a pub…

MONDAY Open mic night at the Institute of Plasmic Arts. Here, brevity is gravity. And I am briefer, more plasmic and artier than any of those other epic space sucker MCs, even if I DO say so myself.

On the big screen side by side are projected images of a Modernist piloti and an iPad stylus. I shout ‘GENRE SMASH!’ The echo subsides. A silence. The audience considers. Does this mean anything? I remain on stage, implying that it most certainly does.

A sudden eruption of cheering and wild applause. I drop the mic, walk off stage. Boom. Done it again. Idiots.

TUESDAY Alas, genre smashes don’t always work. Example: my visitor centre at a certain exquisite County Durham castle. Status: ‘Especially Historic’. You can imagine the paperwork. 

My clients decided to cut costs by squashing the energy centre and the faith garden into one single innovative landscape. Now the bindweed’s gone mental and the place is full of religious windbags. Well done, ‘holistic budgetary thinking’.

WEDNESDAY I’m reinvigorating a London ‘tourist magnet’ famous for its live music venue, ramshackle cafés, sprawling outdoor market and canal culture.

Tourists can always spend more. Land can always work harder. But it’s of paramount importance that we preserve the area’s character. Relax. That area character will be very carefully removed, lump by grimey lump, put carefully into a preservative skip marked FRAGILE – ‘CHARACTER’ and then whatever.

THURSDAY My fixer Rock Steady Eddie now has a lucrative sideline. He’s a brownfield development planning consultant to philanthropist-developers keen to put something back into whatever community they’ve acquired a plot of land in. 

The ‘something’ they usually want to ‘put back’ is high-density luxury apartment blocks aimed at either the overseas investment market or at domestic grim-faced dog owners in pastel jumpers who’ve just cashed in their pensions. The ‘journey’ of a brownfield development planning consultant has 12 billable stages:

  1. The developer, having acquired a brownfield site with the intention of improving the neighbourhood for purely sentimental reasons, appoints a planning consultant to show everything’s above board and totally legit.
  2. Consultant conducts a thorough lunchtime site appraisal.
  3. Developer astonished to learn there’s a pub still operating in the middle of what he assumed was an abandoned car park, created in the wake of heavy German bombing in 1943, when plucky Brits defied the Nazi menace etc.
  4. Consultant’s details appear at the bottom of a press release referencing the dark days of World War Two and the bravery of ordinary, aspirational people huddled in bomb shelters, dreaming of a future free from tyranny with access to high quality lifestyle signifiers in the heart of the sexy city with great Wi-Fi, transport links, the lot. 
  5. Developer applies to have historic pub removed from site, citing a report from the planning consultant warning that we live in uncertain times and that the building could literally fall down at any moment.
  6. Planning authority refuses permission to demolish, thereby encouraging busybodies to have it listed for its special cultural interest as the only functioning public house left in a five-mile radius, all others having been erased or converted into ‘luxury pubpartments’.
  7. Planning consultant’s supplementary application warns that neither the local authority nor the historic buildings people have seen the developer when he loses his temper; furthermore, they would really not like him when he’s taken a drink.
  8. Pub accidentally demolished by a coincidental anthology of heavy machinery in the early hours. Landlady narrowly escapes in her pyjamas.
  9. Developer, as surprised as anyone else, promises to investigate and directs all enquiries to planning consultant.
  10. Planning consultant unavailable for comment.
  11. Developer, guilty of illegal destruction, is fined the equivalent of three months’ rent for one of the 42 luxury flats he’s now developing.
  12. Developer draws line under whole affair and moves on, having learned life lesson; all enquiries to planning consultant, who remains unavailable for comment.

FRIDAY Spend all day with Eddie in undemolished pub, where he is unequivocally and relentlessly available for comment.

SATURDAY Jazz Architecture Huff Posts. ‘Fuck You Man, I’m Not A Goddam Starchitect’ by Frank Gehry’s Middle Finger beats ‘Iconicity’ by Patrik Schumacher and his Identical Haircuts by 357,000 page impressions.

SUNDAY Self-pretentionise into a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, in a recliner.

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