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Living in a dematerialised world

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin explores the future from an experimental 1970s pub

MONDAY  Create a Midlands Powerhouse with special ‘regional receptors’ to capture and store any surplus energy tumbling down from the Northern Powerhouse. Emergency Midlands accommodation will be a priority for Londoners until they get their high-speed rail link, so I’m proposing a temporary rebrand: Airbnbirmingham.

TUESDAY  Of course when the keys to England are formally handed over to Tamworth in the not too distant future, the situation will change.

London, that great over-geared financial sinkhole, will have transitioned fully into a foreign gated playground for the fracketeering elite. As warm weather and compelling geopolitical realities move north, New Mercia will become the revised beautiful south. The old North will be the New Midlands and our friends in the North will be Scottish.

The fate of  Wales will be up to New Westerners themselves, although I have been commissioned to sketch out a few initial ideas, centred on the principle that it must be the opposite of Greater London, ie affordable and not full of tossers. I’m proposing a full coastal upgrade with ionised seawater, beach huts with plumbing and 4G and proper Welsh chips widely available.

Inland there’s a pressing need for de-Kinnockisation, more renewables and the laughter of a nation at ease with itself. Plus more prefixed structures: micro, macro, infra, super, mega, etc.

WEDNESDAY  Rethink the listing process so that buildings yet to be designed by geniuses are automatically classed as masterpieces in advance and immune to any alterations.

THURSDAY  Amend my reimagined listing process to allow alterations to potential masterpieces if carried out by a genius, as alterations would then become potential masterpieces of intervention and ‘accomplished rebootment’.

FRIDAY  To Milton Keynes, City of the Future, for MatCon15. It’s marvellous that this showcase for materials should be run, as it has been for the last 40 years, like an old-fashioned comic convention.

The venue as usual is The Kitchen Sink, a charming if dilapidated 1970s timber-frame pub designed by the celebrated post-war architect and alcoholic Stanvers Granville-Manvers. It was mocked at the time by progressives and bastards alike for its experimental design, which fatuously mixed randomised elements of a traditional coaching inn with Perspex pods and psychedelic grooves. You can see why everyone hated it, it’s terrible. But now we’re in the 21st century obviously it was seminal.

I’m here with my old mate Beansy the nanofuturologist. There are about 30 stalls crammed into the upstairs function room and one of them is ours. Developers and specifiers from all over the world are here to browse the samples on display. Beansy insists you can tell which way the world’s going by ‘the mood at MatCon’, and this year he’s worried.

Oh, there’s polite interest in Beansy’s wares. Hard Air 2.0, with its new streamlined omnilateral desublimation procedure requiring less lumpening hydration. Bouncycrete, the premier choice for safe Brutalist playgrounds. Kryptogel, whose ‘geotastic non-bucklyball’ composition means you can build a luxury apartment block from something the size of a steak and kidney suet pudding. Neogen, the self-replicating smart gas that bonds with ‘good air’ and magnetises ‘bad air’ into harmless lightweight compost for urban gardens.

Yeah, people are still ‘a bit’ interested in the futuristic stuff displayed on neighbouring stalls, too. The cloud of LED particles that lights the way ahead of you. Bomb-resistant paint. Touchscreen stained glass windows bringing scripture and sponsorship alive in the contemporary church. Spray-on ethical provenance.

But the real demand this year is for all things retro. Look at the crowds around the historic materials stalls. The chipped bakelite and the vinyl, the goat hide and the formica, the cast iron and the GRP.  The world’s spatial opinion-formers have come to Milton Keynes, City of the Future, and decided that next year we’re all going vintage. Back into the dark tunnel of a familiar past.

Bollocks to this, says Beansy. He bodyscans and then pinbeams us in a nanosecond to an experimental private members club in Mumbai, which seems to exist in at least four dimensions. Everything’s weightless but heavy.  We don’t stay long; this sort of place makes you homesick after a while for the bright tunnel of an uncertain present. 

SATURDAY  Five-a-zeitgeist tropeball. Vertical Shift 0, Horizontal Unpacking 1 after extra laterality.

SUNDAY  In the recliner existing simultaneously in the past and the future like a fatter, stupider version of  TS Eliot.

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