Ian Martin masterplans one of the government’s garden cities
MONDAY. Finish my sketches for a skyscraper that looks like an apple corer. Nobody’s done an apple corer before. Acknowledge my genius, yet feel a genuine sadness that the apple corer will be the last kitchen implement to be formalised in architecture. Acknowledge my sadness, then acknowledge my genius again.
TUESDAY I’m giving Riyadh a ‘solemn makeover’. It’s all absolutely fine, ethics-wise. The competition brief, from the Office of the Half-Brother of the Guardian of the Two Holy Places, has been pre-approved by the Gulf chapter of the Royal Institute for the Pop-Uption of British Architects, and believe me those guys know their way around a moral conundrum, Allah be praised.
The brief stresses the need for ‘stability and continuity, with a hint of cautious reform in the future’. Certainly, holding an open international design competition is very encouraging even if it does say in small print at the end: ‘Sorry – no ladies, Jews, Shi’ites, breadheads or haram pisstakers.’
Stability and continuity are easy enough to achieve architecturally. You just need to be heavy-handed on the conservation. Lots of restoration and maintenance, using ancient techniques and traditional slave labour. Lashings and lashings of respect for the old ways.
Of course Saudi Arabia is keen to show the West that it’s a modern, forward-looking, civilised place. So I’ve put a parametric smart wall around that big public square, with a curvy glass-and-gold canopy over the bit where they behead people for witchcraft and sorcery.
WEDNESDAY Finished the Sagrada Familia at last! A dozen bottles of the shittest rioja I’ve ever ordered. Never again.
THURSDAY Honoured to be masterplanning one of the government’s garden cities, in Oxfordshire. It’s nice and leafy here – an ideal spot for 5,000 new homes with associated Netflix and sewerage system. Just don’t call it an ‘eco-town’. Nobody with any sense has said that for years. You might as well put ‘green’ in front and wear a Blur T-shirt.
Although my secret project is filed under Operation Garden Cities, I concede that 5,000 very similar looking homes isn’t technically a city. It’s not as if anyone’s asked me to knock up a cathedral or a corn exchange or whatever. On the other hand it’s too big to be one of those awful pseudo-villages favoured by wealthy commuters. You know the sort: extruded Georgian dormopiles laid out in a series of microcrescents and called something ending in –imley, –amley or Wood.
This is different. A social experiment drawing together the very best minds in environmental aesthetics (me) and historical reconstruction (my old friend Dusty Penhaligon the conservactionist). We have gone beyond pseudo. To feudo. Wodwo Manor will be the first neo-medieval feudopolis in Western Europe. If things go well, it could double in size by 2030 and might even become a neo-medieval statelet in due course.
It addresses the problem of where to park all those cluttering London families on zero-hours contracts and benefits who must be cleared out to make way for genuine earners. The solution, as with so many of this government’s solutions, is stupidly simple. Stuff them well out of everyone else’s way, in a feudopolis. A sizeable portion of the public seem very keen on ‘tough love’; they’ll love the harsh but fair realities of a strip-farming economic system.
In Wodwo Manor, the poor may ascend to ‘electronically tagged but deserving’ status by working in rows of mile-long 24/7 polytunnels run by a PFI contractor under the DWP’s new rural community service system, Welfarm. They will also be paying tithes (determined on a case-by-case basis) to lord of the manor Mr Zhu Peng, whose innovative sale and leaseback deal has enabled this part of Oxfordshire to become officially under new medieval management.
FRIDAY. Design a new Greek order, creating a fluted, post-austere column with the weighty capital removed from the top and repurposed as a plinth from which an intoxicated non-loadbearing caryatid of progressive Greek democracy may rise and flourish, part of – yet separate from – the Classical European edifice, effortlessly eluding architectural analogy as usual, don’t worry I’m sure another Greek joke will be along in a minute.
SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist client blow football. Impoverished Progressive Statists 0, Wealthy Fascistic Patrons 100, after a mysterious late buyout via cash bungs.
SUNDAY Feudally ‘lie fallow’ all day in the recliner.