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Tough times call for Chartered Architectural Busking

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‘Opinion modeller’ Ian Martin is asked to ‘shape a narrative’ for the profession

MONDAY. Bingo, a steady gig at last. Victorian terrace refurb for Cumberthwaite District Council. They were planning to demolish it but the Pathfinder money ran out.

Aesthetically it’s a challenge. Everyone wants a new communal sheath over the whole terrace, to broadcast the good news about regeneration. But the context is neighbouring streets of non-regenerated terraced housing in a shitty northern town. How to ‘address’ this? Hm. In the end I decide to make the communal envelope deranged (cladding of woven fibre optics, local newspapers and lime plaster) yet introspective (stuff the context, who cares?).

Yeah. It’s a self-addressed envelope.

TUESDAY. Just seen the first ironic ‘frozen music’ caption of spring, underneath a photograph of an abandoned, half-finished housing development in Blingnang, China.

Must stay alert for the inevitable ‘less is more’ caption accompanying a conceptual rendering of blobby, faceless cartoon citizens strolling past a block of austerity nano-flats. FACT: if one of these Letraset passers-by is a child, it will be holding a balloon. Why? Because it is sociological shorthand for ‘hope’.

WEDNESDAY. To the RIPBA for an emergency meeting about The Situation. I’m one of several ‘opinion modellers’ invited to ‘shape a narrative’ for the profession.

Pamela Hashtag, head of Delivery Supportment, is brisk and humourless. ‘With so many architects facing hard times the Institute must not only do something but be seen to be doing something. And that something that we DO do must be seen to BE something. We’d love to hear your ideas. Quick as you like, we’ve only got this meeting room for an hour before the golf sale people turn up…’

While archibusking you could talk up your buildings, or be quiet and look sexy and artistic

Some of the ideas are really lame. Reposition 66 Portland Place as the premier venue for civil-partnership ceremonies. Issue ‘no tie’ dress-code guidelines to male architects so they look less like bankers and win back public trust. Organise a Jarrow Crusade-style march on Downing Street to petition for work, but on folding bicycles. Time to ignite the meeting with my own brilliant scheme: Chartered Busking. The RIPBA negotiates with local authorities to create special ‘archibusk’ pavement pitches in town centres. You know, like they have on the London Underground for those wiry, beardy men improvising to themselves on amplified acoustic guitars.

Local architects – NB only those on the municipal ‘approved list’ and wearing RIPBA baseball caps – would simply book a slot and busk, holding out a tin cup for the small change. The style would be up to individual architects. You could recite the About Us section of your website, or shout a pithy summary of your architectural services, or just be quiet and look all artistic and sexual. Members of the public would be allowed to ask your advice if they dropped a quid in.

Obviously it couldn’t be detailed advice, that’s the point. ‘Oh yes, you’d need planning permission. I could sort that for a couple of hundred, cash.’ ‘Course I know a structural engineer. But we work as a team.’ ‘I’ve never done Sassy Neo-Georgian with a funky trim but the customer’s always right!’ Needless to say, everyone thinks my idea’s a winner. The RIPBA will be ‘rolling it out’ later in the year under the title Architect In The Street.

THURSDAY. I’m furious. My lawyer says there’s nothing I can do about the bastard who’s presenting a range of furniture at the Milan Chair Show called Crystallised Wind.

It sounds suspiciously close to my own intellectually copyrighted invention, Hard Air. The most sustainable local material in world history, formed by mixing fresh air with special ‘lumpening hydrates’ in a process called omnilateral desublimation. Economic downturn means lumpening hydrates have never been cheaper. Only the lack of political will and imagination now prevents the world being entirely transformed by Hard Air ‘breeze blocks’.

Incredibly, the shameless furniture buffoon who’s cruising along in my Hard Air slipstream even has the nerve to use poncey promotional rhetoric. He has created ‘an art form that represents movement yet stillness, the flow of time in a timeless environment…’ I’ve promised ‘the heir to air, a timeless anti-void in the flow of stillness…’ See you in timeless court, mate.

FRIDAY. Morning: pre-Espressism. Afternoon: peri-peri-Modernism. Evening: post-Rococoa.

SATURDAY. Farmers’ market. Shit, there’s a busking rural architect pitching his free-range sketches already!

SUNDAY. Experience flow of time, and stillness, in the recliner.


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