Ian Martin discovers the power of sloganised architecture
MONDAY Sometimes I’m just so ashamed to be part of this capricious epic space racket.
It’s not just the obeisance we pay to the beancounting squareheads who control it all. Or those amoral cockpunnets masquerading as enlightened clients, who recognise art and beauty only in value engineering and pre-tax profit.
It’s not just the corruption systemic in certain overseas markets. Oh sure, let’s pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, you preposterous wide-eyed dissembling clown.
It’s not just the social cleansing we sadly acknowledge as a ‘fact on the ground’, the price that disposable people in rented flats have to pay for the vital shareholder-driven gentrification of their former neighbourhood.
No, it’s not just all that. It’s this stupid new fad among clients to give buildings aspirational slogans instead of nicknames. It’s utterly demeaning for an auteur, eg yours truly, to have such babyish nonsense in their portfolio.
I had agreed to bang out 4,000m2 of theatrically serviced office floorspace for a certain global media presence. A shadowy project sponsor I knew only as ‘Rebekah’ told me to ‘imagine that one of those Communist revolutions had taken place but in capitalism instead, and Stalin or whoever was now in charge of architecture OK?
‘We want it to be imposing, generic, cheap, hierarchical – is that the right word? – but pretending to be all egalitarian? Like a big soul-crushing block that makes every other building within a two-mile radius shit itself. Do you understand me? I said do you fucking understand me? Good. Plus, put in a few fascinators for the dickheads and bedwetters, right? Something to do with bicycles or carbon or something. Rainwater harvesting, is that a thing?’
I did as I was told. Not least because the first stage payment came through with a note from Rebekah urging me not to let her down or she would have me ‘done’ by some ‘bent coppers’ of her acquaintance.
And then the final humiliation. I had proposed several nicknames for the building: The Borg, The Monopoly, The News o’ The World. These were all briskly dismissed by Rebekah, who said their ‘word scientists’ had decided it was to be called the ‘Changing The Be You Are’ building. What? But that’s meaningless, I bleated futilely to a dial tone.
Bastards. I hope that wiggly ramp that runs down the facade from top left to bottom right is their profitability over the next five years.
TUESDAY At least you find out who your friends are. Hilaire Totes-Adorbs of Pop-Out magazine has produced 800 mocking words on the ‘Changing The Be You Are’ building, disingenuously blaming ME for its stupid name.
And under the headline ‘So Which BE Are YOU?’ Sloane Bagshawe of Builty Pleasures suggests rallying slogans for other buildings. St Paul’s Cathedral: ‘Arousing Your Spiritual Pudding’. The Shard: ‘Living To Taper’. The luxury reincarnation of Battersea Power Station: ‘Colostomising Hope’. At least my old friend the epic space correspondent Darcy Farquear’say and his boutique dachshund Bauhau show compassion: ‘The name is irrelevant. This building is fatally caught between utterly banal and exquisitely pompous, woof woof.’
WEDNESDAY Every humiliating cloud has a marketing bonus. After months of endless redesigns to accommodate planning anxieties about ‘contextuality’, I finally get the go-ahead for my grim, 47-storey tower near Liverpool Street. The planners have yielded to my powerful argument that it will simply look like another opportunistic chamfered dildo of an office tower amid a forest of like-chamfered dildos. So massively contextual. More importantly I’ve christened it the ‘Striving to Exceed’ building. Suddenly everybody loves the frozen music of present participle phrases.
THURSDAY Emergency meeting of the Tamworth League. We quickly rebadge the annual Tamworth Prize for Architectural Excellence. It will now be the Working Participlation Prize.
We assign present-participle building phrasehandles to our shortlist: the ‘Learning To Be Excellent’ campus cluster, the ‘Living True, Living Through’ apartment block, the ‘Being Stronger For Longer’ hospice, the ‘Increasing Value Despite Your Absence’ luxury residential blocks, the ‘Seeing To Believe, Quietly’ university library and the ‘Pushing The Wormhole Of Art Whatever’ gallery extension.
FRIDAY Darcy, Sloane and Hilaire write gushing pieces about the Working Participlation Prize. Pink sycophants on parade.
SATURDAY Five-A-Side Participlation Football. Getting Out There 1, Getting Back To You Once I’ve Run It Past Legal 4.
SUNDAY Reclining into the future.