Installation that puts the guf into Ruskin Square

It’s Grim Dahn Sarf London

As you’ve stood on the platforms at East Croydon lately, have you wondered what the eclectic collection of random fixtures on the vacant site that was supposed to be “the gateway” to Croydon might be?

There’s some explanation in this morning’s The Observer, though it is difficult to discern from the article exactly where reality begins and parody ends. One thing is abundantly clear from the more than 1,300-word piece of pretentiousness: there won’t be any building work going on at “Ruskin Square” any time soon.

There is a cartoon strip in Private Eye, called It’s Grim Up North London, which pokes fun at the Guardianistas of Islington and Camden and their disconnect from the realities of real life. There’s a strong chance that Rowan Moore’s article about the architectural installation at East Croydon may provide source material for the cartoonists for months to come.

The company behind the architectural “installation” is called “muf”. Apparently in all seriousness, although “mug” might seem more appropriate if any money has actually been spent to pay for all this “guf” that has been arranged on the undeveloped wasteland and hidden behind the hoardings.

The over-sized cricket nets? Yes, they are cricket nets, apparently provided for Afghan refugees as they visit Lunar House, the reasoning being because cricket is popular in Afghanistan (maybe the architects don’t realise that cricket’s popular in England, too, although there won’t be any first-class cricket in Croydon for a while yet).

According to The Observer, “Muf ‘wanted to put the Ruskin back into Ruskin Square'”. Seriously.

There’s also an evident attempt to appear in another regular Private Eye feature, Pseuds’ Corner, with the following passage: “Ruskin Square exemplifies several aspects of the muf method, such as placing the human activities in a space above its physical form and therefore a belief that a project neither begins nor ends. Rather, it grows out of what is already there and creates a setting for what might happen in the future. ‘The temporary inscribes the ambitions for the permanent,’ says Liza Fior.” Yes, someone really went to the trouble of noting this down, typing it out and submitting it as copy.

But the #thatissoCroydon moment comes in the piece when it explains that the architects planned for access to the site via a door in the Warehouse Theatre, now closed because of Croydon Council’s perverse decision to cut its funding.

Is the real truth about this whole project contained in this sentence about muf’s work: “Sometimes, they’re hired in a tokenistic way, in order to fulfil a public promise at minimal cost”?

The desperately sad thing about this piece, though, is that it appears in an architecture column. And it is all about a utterly meaningless, remote piece of self-indulgence, rather than about any plans, much less progress, in developing buildings on a site that has stood, cleared but undeveloped, for most of the past decade. #thatissoCroydon

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5 Responses to Installation that puts the guf into Ruskin Square

  1. Ken Towl says:

    It is nice to hear that “The temporary inscribes the ambitions for the permanent”. I have always lived my life by this maxim and now have a renewed sense of vindication. I am grateful to Ms Fior for her perspicacity.

  2. ndavies144 says:

    Architecture columns are always like this. Glancy over in the Graun is even worse. I creased up when I got to the Pussy Riot comparison.

  3. rowanwgmoore says:

    Greetings. Always nice to get a response to my articles. I don’t know what is “meaningless” and “self-indulgent” about making good use of a piece of land awaiting development, for example by creating cricket facilities (which are not only for Afghans by the way). At minimal cost.

    • “Tokenistic” was the other word that leapt out at us, Rowan.

      Wonder how often those “cricket facilities…At minimal cost” will actively be used during the cold, wet winter’s nights?

  4. ndavies144 says:

    Leaving aside the completely barking notion that anyone visiting a government office might fancy a bit of cricket practice while they’re at it, I wonder how much muf* charged to come up with the idea. A hefty five-figure sum no doubt.

    Of course if someone approached the council and suggested spending a few hundred quid on such equipment they’d be sent away with their tail between their legs.

    *I really hope there’s another design consultancy somewhere called something like ‘whang’. A merger between the two would provide comic material for decades.

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