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Microhoods, and a civic iceberg

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin discovers a dark secret at the heart of London’s sabotaged skyline

MONDAY To a meeting of Space Avengers, the London skyline activist group. Ecomentalist Amy Blackwater in the wheelchair.

Coffee and Biscuits, Minutes, then Apologies For Absence. Celebrity saboteur DJ Nairn was hospitalised last week and arrested for trespass, criminal damage of ‘an icon under construction’ and illegal possession of an improvised jet fuel steel beam melter. 

Good old Nairny. Heart in the right place, ambition completely out of scale. We all take a moment to reflect on this, ruefully, as overscaled ambition is PRECISELY WHAT IS WRONG WITH LONDON. Or as Amy says aggressively through her balaclava – ’the urbanised world now looks like a fucking taster menu for some hungry cosmic giant, with London doing the poncey amuse-bouches innit!’

We’ve just published our Declaration of Intent: ‘Space Avengers demand the immediate introduction of a 180m height restriction on all new non-residential buildings, in line with 30 St Mary Axe. All towers currently exceeding the Gherkin Line will be brutally pollarded, to discourage future architectural mischief’. 

Direct action is already working. Clandestine tip-softening by our inside people at the Shard has created a pronounced droop, now disguised with an emergency hologram. Panicky building owners are desperate to keep the bad news from shareholders. 

Of course, height is not the only concern. Ugly buildings of all sizes must be destroyed. It has been very gratifying to have steered powerful solar glare from the Walkie Talkie into a new art gallery designed by a certain eminent Royal Academician, improving several ‘works’ by Damien Hirst. 

More gratifying still – the weaponised building is itself doomed. Its forward-leaning roof is currently being lined with a super-heavy metal compound smuggled in by volunteers. We’re turning it into a toppling Titanic. A little way off the soon-to-be magnetised City Hall looms, a civic iceberg. 

TUESDAY Lunch with my old friend Darcy the epic space commentator and his little yelper Bauhau, the architectural dachshund. They wear identical butch-fem jacquard bodywraps with jeggings.

Come on, who wouldn’t laugh? Darcy, as it turns out. ‘How are things with Space Avengers?’ he sneers. ‘You still being bankrolled by that mysterious, petulant billionaire? Very democratic I’m sure’. ‘Crap-crap!’ barks Bauhau, the little shit.

WEDNESDAY Massive piece in one of the giveaway London gossrags ‘by agency reporter and dog’ about the Space Avengers campaign, with ‘speculation around’ who might be funding it. Wrong guesses include the Prince of Wales, Putin, neo-Classical Islamofascists, that fat bastard who cleared out BHS, Trump.  

THURSDAY Lunch with Little Ern, the new mayor of London. Ostensibly we’re here to chat about ideas for turning leftover parcels of old London Transport land into exciting ‘microhoods’. 

Microhoods offer pop-up communities a powerful blend of affordable prose and contemporary space standards. Initial marketing features gender-fluid couples laughing like ventriloquist’s dummies at one another’s teeth and hair and clothes, and having sexy pillow fights. 

We agree that nothing’s too good for hard-working London families, whatever their shape or politics. Then out of nowhere, Ern looks me in the eye and asks me what I know about Space Avengers. I blink several times, furrow my brow and splutter loudly about not being involved.

Ern’s eyes narrow with suspicion. ‘Right. It’s just that some self-important architectural bigwigs seem very keen to meet me and tell me how to do my job but – may I speak frankly? – bollocks to them. No, instead, I’d quite like to stop all this dicking about with the skyline. I think the No Bigger Than The Gherkin lot are on to something…’

He’s SO much better than my ex-friend, the ex-mayor, Loaf. Here at last is someone who cares about the built environment enough to destroy some of it. 

FRIDAY ‘No’ says Amy. ‘We can’t get any English politicians involved. “They” wouldn’t like it…’

Hang on, she KNOWS who’s funding us? I thought it was some bitter old developer from the 80s. ‘Yeah, he died. Nutter, anyway. Wanted to turn London into a Dali painting. Can’t talk on the phone.’

SATURDAY At the usual rendezvous – an illegal organic pop-up club in Epping Forest – in shock. 

The Scottish TOURIST BOARD? THAT’s who wants to lop bits off the London skyline? With under-the-radar grant aid from the EU and the IMF? Wow, Brexit really is a grudge match.

SUNDAY Consider my position. I’m not comfortable. Move to recliner. Better. 


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