For more than a quarter of a century, Ian Martin has written a weekly satirical column in the architectural press. His first column appeared in the Architects’ Journal in 1990. Its theme was the cultural significance of the boozy lunch. Although the column started life as a sarcastic in-house joke for architects, it has blossomed over the years into a surreal take on contemporary culture. As Martin sharpened his writing skill on shows such as Time Trumpet, The Thick of It and Veep (for which he won an Emmy in 2015) so the column reached out to a more general audience. Weird and hilarious, it now has an enthusiastic cult following.
Epic Space is an anthology of the best columns of recent years. Each week is written in diary form, describing the working life of an amoral consultant with powerful friends, incuding members of the Cabinet and HRH the Prince of Wales. Its world is a woozy version of our own. But one in which Martin and his friend, the nanofuturologist Beansy, can invent Kryptogel – a new building material developed using ‘hard air’.
In this mad world, the property wing of the Church of England builds buy-to-let almshouses while ‘bouncy mega-mosques’ have helium-stiffened minarets. There’s a proposal for a 1:1 map of the whole world. An arts correspondent is sacked by a Sunday newspaper and replaced with his own overdressed architectural dachshund. Soot becomes a valuable stock market commodity. A hipster skyscraper is called the Blard. A massive analogue underground Cotswolds is mooted. An ambitious plan is hatched to ‘turn the North around’ so that it faces south. Big questions are asked: Is Texture The New Fragrance? Is Modern Modernism Just Post-Modernism But With A Neo-Modernistic Coat On? How Fat Is Your Faceprint?
And reassuringly, there are still plenty of boozy lunches.