'Operation: Ivy League' was conceived in response to a general disdain for the aesthetics and symbolism of corporate architecture. But, mostly because the City would actually look REALLY great if it was covered in ivy.
Back in 2007, I managed to convince a gang of merry mischiefmakers, London's Spacehijackers, to come and help me plant ivy saplings in the nooks and crannies of the square mile... you can read their report about our first mission here.
Then, in 2009, I was approached by London's Barbican Centre to undertake a second project mission: as part of their 'Radical Nature' programme of events. At the time I was away on far flung Antipodean adventures, so the legendary Spacehijackers stepped into action again...
You can see a few pictures from our first mission below, as well as a copy of the project's manifesto
P.S. If anybody reading feels inspired to run wild across the city with an armful of ivy saplings... learn from our own shortcomings and plan your guerrilla gardening activities wisely (lest eagle-eyed security guards and the occasional strong gust of wind get to them first)!
The Ivy League: Manifesto
Travel to London’s Liverpool Street on a Monday morning and you will become absorbed into the hustle and bustle of a monstrous pin-striped machine. Individuality is frowned upon as is dawdling and looking lost or confused. Towering buildings glare down at you and heighten your sense of helplessness. Those unaccustomed to the pace and flow of city life may often feel a sensation of drowning when first entering the confines of the Square Mile; to conquer the fear and succeed, or to escape, offers your only salvation.
Return to the same place on the following Sunday. As you distance yourself from the visitors to Spitalfields market and enter the heart of the City the place takes on an entirely different tone. The buildings still loom, still whisper their mantra, but without the thousand-tiny suited cogs they lose some of their potency. Turning through the winding backstreets you begin to notice signs of another sort of life. Tiny weeds creep through cracks in the paving stones, moss covers drainpipes and spiders lie in wait for dinner in dark corners. Slowly but surely nature is pushing through in a quiet revolt to regain what it once controlled.
On a Sunday afternoon you can feel the City begin to breathe again. The Ivy League is working to promote the liberty of city workers through th medium of nature. We believe that by diverting attention away from the overbearing message of the city's architecture, and focussing it onto the nature that it strives to hide: city users may begin to re-evaluate their relationship to this place.
We aim to promote daydreams where they are outlawed!
The Ivy League's launch project Operation: Ivy League encourages the planting and subsequent nurture of ivy growth on the buildings of the City. Ivy-clad buildings have long-since been associated with the dreaming towers of gothic architecture and sleepy country cottages. To cover the, often unsightly, architecture of the City in lush ivy growth would not only draw attention away from the intended language of the buildings but would also attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife to the area.
Set the city free!
OPERATION: Ivy League
‘Corporate architecture acts as a signifier of the myth of the efficient and powerful corporation, it is a physical symbol and public face of that corporation… A vocabulary of signs is built up and reused by corporate architects in order to exert some control over the mood and behaviour of users of that space. The people who work in the city begin to believe the myths of the city, and try to live up to the image of the efficient and business-like lifestyle. Of course they don't manage it, nobody does, from office clerks to managing directors, so dissatisfaction sets in. People work harder in order to keep up their appearance and the corporations benefit.’
Extract from the Second manifesto of the Spacehijackers
The architecture of the city must gnaw away at the souls of its inhabitants. Every stone, every inch of steel and every pane of glass should instil the following mantra into the minds of the workers: must work, must earn, must buy, must impress.
Buildings should be as tall as possible, not only to maximise upon space but also to promote intimidation; users should be made aware of their own insignificance in the face of a greater power, namely money. Think architecture of the great Empires: the ancient cities of Rome, Greece and Egypt.
Nature is outlawed except where it may be used in controlled circumstances (1). Nature is dangerous. It stimulates the human imagination and may induce romanticism within those that experience it. Nature promotes inefficiency and encourages aspirations towards ideas that in no way relate to capital gain.
The human imagination is a dangerous tool. Thinking is dangerous and must be eradicated in order to ensure the efficient running of the city.
The architecture of the city should promote the compliance of its users. Workers must realise that power may only be gained via surrender to the system. Except for in the strict pursuit of greater capital gain users should not feel the need to:
The city should create a fortress that separates its users from the outside world, both physically and mentally. Interaction with the outside world should only be allowed in relation to business pursuits.
Efficiency is everything. Money is everything.
(1 )Acceptable levels of nature include neatly laid out plant boxes in front of office complexes and large tropical plants in pots within reception halls. This use of nature has two main effects:
a) To induce a false sense of the company's caring and fair attitude to business (i.e. we are a team you can trust
and will want to invest in);
b) To prevent receptionists and secretaries from moaning about the clinical and impersonal space that they have to work in.