Ian Martin converts a social housing landmark to cope with a severe luxury housing demand
MONDAY The problem: an underclass of municipal buildings. Marginalised and feared by polite society. All hope beaten out of them by history and economics. Determined to assert themselves with aggressive self-esteem.
The solution: architectural tattoos.
TUESDAY In the morning, think I’m being really clever by designing a reflexive environment eco-synced to its own algorithmic sense of a developing self-worth.
By the afternoon, the entire environment has become maudlin and sluggish. Not so clever after all, am I? God, now I can’t even manage my OWN algorithms.
In the evening have a quiet one and just do a couple of bungalows.
WEDNESDAY I’ve worked for a lot of narcissistic despots over the years but none so easy to roll over as ‘president-elect-in-waiting Donald Trump’.
That’s what all his consultants are calling him, and I’m certainly not rocking the yacht now. Flattery may not get you everywhere, but it does get you a fee bump and a fat bonus.
I’m signed on as ‘experiential spacescaper’. It just means finding the most expensive way of making a place feel like it’s been designed by a five-year-old trillionaire and then negotiating discounts from suppliers on the basis that the client is a deranged buffoon in possession of America’s nuclear codes and keen to know whose side everyone’s on.
So far I’ve specced out a solid gold Manhattan penthouse kept aloft by powerful jet rockets which need aerial replacement every 20 minutes via special helicopters, all surrounded by a bespoke Smart Plasma Noise Reduction System®, and a big titanium wall along the Mexican border.
THURSDAY I yield to no-one in my admiration for the celebrated Brutalist architect Sir Bond Villane.
Of all the cold-hearted autocrats who transformed Britain’s post-war municipal landscape into one vast ‘secondary modern school for living in’, he was one of the most autocratic. He wore a monocle and drank champagne at breakfast. Much of his work was conducted from an Art Deco heroin club near Old Street, at a time when neither heroin nor Old Street were fashionable.
Villane’s landmark Teflon Tower has stood proudly over Cockney London since 1968, like a cackling pearly king made of concrete and steel, blazoning its humane ideals of social housing. Confusingly its identical twin Georgy Tower has posed like a posh swinging dolly bird over Chelsea since about the same time, presenting itself as a sensible solution to the urgent need to accommodate rich bastards in something iconic.
Combined, these twin towers are one of my absolute favourite buildings. That’s why if ANYONE should be charged with redesigning the dilapidated Teflon Tower upwards as a stylish, gated financial services community, it should be me. I am a massive fan of both Brutalism and percentage fees. Sir Bond Villane was an inspiration to me. I certainly wouldn’t do anything he’d disapprove of, if he were still alive. Likewise, I hold the Greater London Council architects department in great esteem but they were disbanded some time last century, alas.
On a happier note, now is a fortuitous time to be rethinking Teflon Tower as it’s half empty. Many of the social housing tenants seem to have decanted themselves somewhere else for the time being. Birmingham perhaps? It’s becoming increasingly popular. But what happens if they don’t return? Then the flats would be like abandoned Palestinian villages. Windfall. It would be a scandal to waste them at a time of such severe luxury housing demand.
Early days still. My notes so far are really just emphasising how important it is to respect the integrity of the original design. Clearly I can’t stress that enough. I’ve even underlined it in my notebook, so let’s hear no more whining about this.
Looking ahead I think it might be amusing to preserve one of the flats as it was, do it up as a sort of social history museum, inhabited perhaps by drama students pretending to be gritty, kitchen-sinky, Cathy Come Homey types.
Elsewhere in the tower, with its glazed balustrades, cocktail roof terrace and community Pilates studios, I imagine the new kitchen sinks will be a little more ‘Scandinavian Noir’.
FRIDAY Spend the day experimenting with supernatural light. Very impressed. You can bend it and everything. Flood AND smite space at the same time. Revelation.
SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Forced Error Message 1, Opportunistic Knock-Off 2.
SUNDAY Remodel self in the recliner