Ian Martin learns a lesson – if you’re in a hole, keep gigging
MONDAY Designing a hostel for a recently rebranded men’s homeless charity, Bromads.
Difficult. Planning now requires all hostels to be ‘luxury’ – 20 per cent of the rooms must technically be ‘unaffordable’ – so the charity has to let these to TOURISTS. What? Planning doesn’t mean forethought any more, it just means psychedelic rethinking. Yeah. ‘Treplanning’, more like.
TUESDAY ‘I dunno, son,’ admits my fixer Rock Steady Eddie in a rare moment of uncertainty. ‘Sometimes I wonder what’s getting weirder faster – the architecture or the clients…
‘I mean, London. You think – cor, look at the size of them inflatables, must be bloody students, some Tate bollocks or whatever. Then you remember they’re all ACTUAL SOLID BUILDINGS and we’re not supposed to laugh! Here, give us those chips. You’ve had enough, looking like an inflatable yourself…’
As architecture critics go, Eddie’s the bluntest I know. He’s happy enough to take his cut at the design end but once anything gets built it’s all ‘state of that’ and ‘you are taking the piss mate’. He’s right about clients getting weirder though. The gig economy, crowdsourcing and exciting new collaborative consumption models are having a big impact.
‘In the end it’s all a lottery, son. All a game. You take a punt, hope for a result. Your round, yeah?’ As I never tire of pointing out, I got the last round in. ‘Go on then,’ he says, indicating the bar. ‘Best of three’.
WEDNESDAY Right on cue, Eddie’s ‘got a nibble’ from some weird clients. A consortium of 52 Airbnb entrepreneurs want to crowdfund a residential block containing 52 apartments, so they can all live there, changing flats once a week. Pretending to be untaxable holidaymakers while their own ‘pornified’ London flatlets are rented out to the most appalling people imaginable.
While the weirdo client collective start searching for a suitable regeneration site for their ‘Rubik’s AirCube’ I bang out rough conceptual drawings. Lots of butch detailing, matt black and faux hide. Wipeable surfaces everywhere. I’m assuming the apartments need to be stacked around some sort of livestream theatrical sex courtyard, where they can all stage their period costume orgies, or human bullfights, or whatever these dead-eyed perverts get up to.
THURSDAY Conceptual debrief in the Gherkin and Firkin. My theatrical sex courtyard creates a frisson of interest, but the muted telly’s on a sports channel, so not much of one.
Quiet as usual. Afternoon drinkers these days are glued to their laptops and phones, half-there with their bitter halves. The casual economy’s here to stay, or will at least lounge around for a bit longer. Landlord, retired architect Po-Mo Ceri, sings softly: ‘Paypal, Paypal Uber Alles…’
An email alert pings in from Conpoption Weekly. Apparently the government has ‘been warned’ by a terrifying alliance of ‘professional bodies’ of a post-Brexit construction skills crisis. As usual, this stern warning has been delivered in the form of one impenetrable four-paragraph sentence. After careful unpicking we decide they’re worried about not being able to get those cheap German and Polish lads over to Build Britain Great Again. ‘See, what you need is a new under-the-radar way of assembling your design and build project workforce…’ muses Ceri.
‘Yeah’ says Eddie, brightly. ‘With whatever, an app. Got to have an app in this day and age. Design and build’s no different. Apps?’ – here he shakes his phone, by way of explanation – ‘Basic…’ Or, says Ceri, you could block-book a load of Airbnb flats, offer ‘working holidays’ to the people you need from the EU, set up a charitable trust, give them all pocket money roughly equivalent to competitive wages ‘and…well, I’m not sure what would be next’. ‘Bosh, mate’ says Eddie. ‘That’s what’s next. Bosh’.
FRIDAY I’m uneasy about this. We’ve now registered AIRDNB© with ‘someone who’s cheaper than going through official channels’.
Meanwhile I’m in negotiations with the weirdo SexCube clients. If we built TWO blocks, we could house our Airdnb gastarbeiter guys in one of them. Oh, but wait. We’d need to put them up somewhere while they were actually BUILDING the first one…
SATURDAY Eddie’s struck a deal with the commercial arm of Bromads to house the gastarbeiter lads while they build the spare SexCube. Once again, the world makes money go round.
SUNDAY In the recliner, temporarily.