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On a hiding to nowhere

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin has a stairing competition with arch-rival Henry Brackentits

MONDAY I’m entering Pop-Up! of the Year! Hugely prestigious, and I’ve never won anything with two exclamation marks in before.

I might submit my temporary pavilion, a baked pastry marquee filled with blank canvasses entitled The Production of Love. It was widely admired and partially eaten at the Tamworth Biennale.

Or my public intervention, Urban Lifeguard, a ladder with a sort of umpire’s seat at the top, installed at a busy intersection in Finsbury Park. It was designed to get people talking about ‘the Israelification of public space’ I think. Something controversial, anyway. Yes, that was VERY MUCH ‘interim architecture’. It was stolen after 20 minutes.

What about something so ephemeral it only existed for a month before being erased? I had designed some innovative pop-up affordable housing for developers Cockneigh Tract, part of a planning gain deal on a dense clump of luxury apartments overlooking historic almshouses. Don’t get me wrong. The fat, humourless towers, now built, look very impressive and have definitely ‘brought value’ to the land they’re on.

At the bottom, lovely little north-facing flats were to be briefly occupied by ordinary folk – caretakers, valets, dog walkers etc – before being quietly sold on. Then Cockneigh Tract brought in a ‘viability engineer’ to check the figures. Oh, it transpired they COULDN’T afford to build affordable housing after all.

So my flats were temporary, and remained entirely theoretical. That’s so pop-up it aches. Come the POP on!

TUESDAY Fuming. My ephemeral affordable housing didn’t make the poplist.

Not merely on the grounds that it never existed. No, the judges have a ‘moral objection to viability engineering as a means of removing unwanted Section 106 agreements … we disdain in the haughtiest terms the duplicity of those who designed and built this cynical monument to greed’.

Sanctimonious pricks. Also, hello? DEVELOPERS are responsible for duplicity. Designers are responsible for complicity. Demarcation’s everything in this game, sunshine. And – two exclamation marks? If I’d been in charge there would have been ONE exclamation mark. In the shape of the Skylon. The ultimate pop-up. Idiots.

WEDNESDAY Sketch out my design for the Poplon, a slender steel emblem of Pop-Up Brexit London.

Wistfully, I thought it might go somewhere on the South Bank but of course that’s now entirely full of fucking pop-up fish restaurants and pop-up prosecco bars and juggling shits on unicycles so I propose that the Poplon be lovingly crafted from foreign steel, then rolled quietly into the Thames as some sort of sulky metaphorical statement.

I finish scribbling my sulky metaphor, then sign and date my thoughts before going to the pub to hate-drink a couple of pints. Remember to take my sketchbook, so that people in the pub know with whom they’re dealing, remotely.

THURSDAY One of the truly inspiring aspects of practising as an auteur of epic space in the theatre of contemporary plasmic arts is the collaborative creative process.

After all, do we not move together through history? Does the conjuring of new three-dimensional realities not require us to acknowledge a comradeship of purpose? Are we not in the end – however gifted, however singular – mere ‘cognoscenti in the machine’ as it were, striving humbly in the service of a greater civic good?

In a fair and balanced world this would undoubtedly be the case. Unfortunately the current world is brutally unfair and dangerously volatile. Ideal conditions to nurture blackguards such as my arch-rival, the insufferable celebrity architect Henry Brackentits, feted throughout the world by the sort of gullible, commissioning bastards who require hollow monuments to their commissioning brilliance.

Days before I was to unveil my £100m bronze-clad New York landmark – The Potato of Hope, designed ‘with’ Yoko Ono – Brackentits revealed plans for a £120 million bronze-clad New York landmark designed ‘with’ Kanye West. It is called, suspiciously, The Hopetato.

Worse, our rival schemes are for the same regeneration site near the High Line. Both feature mushrooming flights of stairs connected by viewing platforms and mushrooming projections for nearby rents.

FRIDAY Great. The Times describes our scheme as a ‘doomed spudnik’. The Brackentits-West landmark is a ‘stairway to nowhere’. Non-functional urban garnish? Bastard wins again.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist iconic football. Big Leafy Bridge 0, Big Potato Hive 1.

SUNDAY Recliner’s collapsed now. F my l, as they say on Facebook. F my l up the a.

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