Ian Martin is away. Our guest columnist this week is Fred Trousers, president of the Royal Institute for the Protection of British Architects.
My various campaigns against landmark-itis, icon fever and celebrity jaundice seem to be paying off. I’m everywhere!
My one big game plan is to publicly advance architecture and get recognition for what it can do. And that starts with the education of the young. Today I am in a primary school in South London, showing pupils pictures of different buildings. I explain that housing is very important. It’s where we live.
Have bicycle checked by a proper chartered surveyor. Give short luncheon speech to Women of Achievement about how progressive we should be, particularly to women.
Email Queen re “Constitutional issues” — an arcane dispute looming about “whose” Gold Medal it is.
It was with some trepidation that earlier this year I accepted an invitation from the Chinese government to see the great Chinese success story for myself. Undoubtably, the most mind-blowing 10 days of my presidency so far. Note to ambassadors of North Korea, Nigeria and Uzbekistan — I still have plenty of days left in my diary!
“So, Fred”, you’re asking. “Why was your trip to China on my behalf so important?”
First (01.01) because of the generosity and warmth of the hospitality. If the hospitality had been more strictly budgeted and cooler, I think it would have been less significant for the membership as a whole. My co-delegates and I were entertained with superb acts — weightlifting pandas, child acrobats — and witnessed some flawless tank drill.
Second (01.02) because there is a lot of work on at the moment, and it shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Third (01.03) because of the vital role to be played by people like me who approach China with a spirit of environmental responsibility and authority.
It would be hypocritical of us in the west to criticise China’s self-made environmental disasters. Plus, you have to choose your moment to mention these disasters to the Chinese officials. Some of them have a pretty short fuse! Instead, we should praise the tremendous energy that has been released in a vibrant private sector (Taiwan, particularly) and a rich culture, which embraces everything from political dissidence to Tibetan religion.
My message to the Chinese was as follows: beware of the seagulls, which fly in, shriek and fly out again. There are too many western seagulls already, and only so many abandoned chips to go round.
Caroline Pampers of the RIPBA’s media monitoring unit has sent me a note. My idea for an “X-list” of vile buildings has taken the world by storm. The idea is simple. The public, assisted where necessary by experts sensitive to ugliness, votes for the demolition of local eyesores. And good riddance!
There are too many Western seagulls already, and only
so many abandoned chips to go round
The note reads: “Brilliant reaction — right across the globe! I’d send you the cuttings, but it’s probably easier if you just do a Google search, regards CP”.
I flip open my (sustainable) laptop, Google-search “X-List” and... Good God! I had no idea my idea could be so widely spread. Oh, wait...
Personal Memo. From: FT. To: FT. Ensure family filter ON.
I am in France, looking at buildings, and thinking about them.
First (02.01) about the buildings themselves.
Second (02.02) about the places they make.
Third (02.03) about the need for us to think more about places than buildings.
Jazz lunch in the Old Linen Factory. In the evening, I address some sole practitioners in Bath.
I explain that by putting architecture on the map, I’m putting them on the map. How? By thinking ahead. At some point the Chinese bubble will burst. When it does, we will need new bubbles in which British architects may prosper.
Pop into St Paul’s Cathedral.
If any building enticed me into architecture, this is it. A building that affects you not just mentally (8% cleverer) but physically (2% taller). As they say, “respect”.