Thinking beyond pop-uption to metarchitecture, and then beyond that…
Ian Martin redesigns autumn
MONDAY. Sign petition calling for an end to topless shots of women in newspapers. For too long, soft porn and popular journalism have appropriated the language of architecture to peddle their sordid drivel.
‘Well-built’. ‘Luscious curves’. ‘Sinuous form’. ‘Elegantly sexy’. ‘Scantily-clad’. In the Telegraph, it could be a sanitaryware showroom by Zaha Hadid or an authorised photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge.
TUESDAY. Redesign autumn, giving it a ‘Game of Thrones trailer’ vibe.
WEDNESDAY. Assemble items for the time capsule we’re burying in the foundations of my Tamworth Museum of The High Street: Direct debit mandate in favour of major charity. Car park overstay fine in buff envelope. Three pairs of socks from Poundland. A dozen different brands of skinny latte. Shop rental agreement in Hedge Fund Esperanto. XL security guard’s hat. Alcopop bottle. Expired library card. Laptop with browser open at Amazon.
THURSDAY. Meeting with Molly Bismuth, president of the Royal Institute for the Pop-Uption of British Architects, and her new thinking unit.
I say unit; there are only two of them. But what a hot-ticket couple: Nicky and Nicki Odessa-Assedo, the celebrated form-makers and paradigm-shifters. Nicky and Nicki are dressed casually but expensively, like Scandinavian therapists. The Odessa-Assedo meteor has certainly blazed across our cultural firmament recently. Their breakthrough ‘being human kiosk’ at the Olympic Park was followed by an award-winning tree house for smokers in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. They imagined a ‘perpetual water park’ for the Institute of Plasmic Arts. They gave a lecture, upside down, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and curated the much talked-about Exhibition of Ephemera in a lift at the Shard (opened at the ground floor, dismantled at the top).
In the last fortnight alone they have rebranded Whitby, designed a Vorticist Artichoke for Borough Market’s New Vegetable Week and Started The Week with Andrew Marr.
Molly explains that Nicky and Nicki’s new Metarchitecture Unit will be a self-contained ‘memepod’ on the third floor. ‘See, this is a chance to push forward the agenda of the RIPBA, beyond pop-up to metarchitecture, and then beyond that…’
There’s an awkward silence. I try to lighten things by asking what metarchitecture is. Everyone looks a bit disappointed in me. ‘Metarchitecture,’ sighs Nicky, or Nicki, ‘is about shifting the grammar and syntax of placemaking from the continuous present to the future imperfect…’ ‘Yes,’ adds Nicki, or Nicky, ‘we need to embrace the new uncertainties if we are to know that which is unknowable…’
Another awkward silence. So, I say, are you two married? ‘We are partners in both business and life,’ says Nicky, or Nicki, glumly. ‘Our commitment to one another, and to our art, is total. We shun the conventions of society’s square cats. That’s why we chose to change both our surnames to something that speaks to the triangulation of us all…’
Nicki or Nicky interrupts. ‘Yes, then we spelled it backwards and put a hyphen in the middle. It looks really good in this font we designed: Querulous Pantomime…’ Coffees and a tray of little architectural cakes arrive at last, rupturing the taut meniscus of bullshit.
An uncomfortable silence. Then I ask, through my second ‘baked nanotype’ - a miniature crofter’s cottage - what exactly they want me to do. ‘Just, you know. Put the word out!’ chirps Molly, tackling a thin biscuit version of Fallingwater. That’s it? ‘Yes’ confirms Nicky, or Nicki. ‘We’re talking to several people, see what ideas they have for troping this. Thank you very much for coming in. We have someone else to see now…’
Suddenly everyone looks steely. For some reason I hear pizzicato violins. It’s at that moment I realise there’s a film crew in the room.
FRIDAY. Obviously I didn’t get the metarchitecture gig.
SATURDAY. Whoever DID get the metarchitecture gig is doing very well. Bollocks. It’s trending. It’s hot. I ring my old friend, architecture critic Darcy Farquear’say, on the off-chance he’s heard anything. Straight to voicemail.
SUNDAY. Practically fall out of the recliner. There, in the Creative on Sunday, a huge picture of a dachshund - Darcy’s former companion - is WINKING at me.
‘METARCHITECTURE - a new way of looking at our built environment! Over the next few months Bauhau The Dachshund, our adorable metarchitecture correspondent, will…’ Oh God, there’s a Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall, too. Memo To Self: Kill Bauhau.