The place to go for a crafty smoke at the Millennium Dome - the designer backside

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TODAY, we continue our award-winning off-beat series:-

Very Unusual Jobs Indeed

Number 43: The man who is designing the back door of the Millennium Dome.

He is, perhaps, the only man in the world who describes himself as a Posterior Designer. He firmly believes that the back of a building is the most honest part of it.

" 'By your back doors ye shall know them.' That is the motto that should be written over the entrance to every school of architectural design", he says. "Anyone can design a facade. Everyone can clean up the front of a building. Any fool of an architect can make the front look good, by clearing all the mess round to the back. So when I want to know how good a design concept is, I don't look at the front. I go round the back. That's the REAL side of the moon..."

The speaker is Otto Kerek, who has been put in charge of the backside of the Millennium Dome. He has never designed the front of a building in his life. He doesn't want to. All he wants to do is to do clever things with the other side.

"I think I first became fascinated with the backside of buildings when I grew up in the country and noticed that there was always one area of every farm which was different from all the rest. It was the secret, hidden place where they dumped the machinery that broke down. Know what I mean? A farmer has a tractor which grinds to a halt and won't go but is too good to throw away, so he puts it in the backyard waiting for a day when he can tinker with it. That day never comes. Instead, it is joined by a car, or a trailer, or an old caravan, which also will be mended one day. That day also never comes. Pretty soon there is one part of the farm which is looking like a rusty agricultural museum. That was the bit of the farm that always fascinated me!"

When Otto Kerek started getting interested in buildings, he maintained his interest in the dark side. The kitchen and refuse arrangements of great houses... the backstairs areas of palaces... the stage door areas of theatres... even the forgotten parts of churches...

"People think that churches are too holy to have a backside. Not true. Go round the back of most churches and you find shabby garden sheds, strange storehouses, mysterious entrances to the vestry, even forgotten loos... I found one church the other day where the vicar had had a TV lounge built on the back. Turned out he had a bit of a horse gambling problem, and used to sneak down there to watch the horses he had backed run on TV."

Wasn't that an expensive hobby?

"Not really. He made quite a lot of money out of it. Sheer luck. Or, as he claimed, divine intervention. God used to show him the winners."

So, how does he envisage the backside of the Millennium Dome?

"Well, it's going to be difficult, because the kind of backsides I like best are those that have grown accidentally, organically, and obviously if I design it from scratch it will be a designer backside. But what I am going to do is latch on to the habit which has grown tremendously in the last ten years: the habit which has transformed the image of the back door: in other words, the habit of slipping out the back for a quick fag."

You mean... you're going to design the back of the great Millennium Dome as a place where people can have a quick crafty smoke?

"I most certainly am. Smoking will be forbidden inside the Dome itself, for all the usual and boring reasons - health, safety, etc - so the back of the Dome will be the only place left for the nasty, normal side of life. Every large building you go past these days has a knot of guilty people standing outside taking a quick smoke, so I thought it would be great to build on this late-20th century phenomenon and have the first designer smoking area. I'll make it comfortable, I'll make it smart, I'll equip it with cigarette vending machines, I'll have fresh coffee on tap and video machines playing clips from great old films in which Bogart and Bacall are constantly lighting up cigarettes... And there will be signs saying: 'Non-Smoking Forbidden'..."

Won't there be a huge protest from all the health and politically correct people?

Otto Kerek smiles.

"Let's hope so," he says. "We back door people will take on anyone. Remember my motto... "

You mean, 'By their back doors shall ye know them?'

"No," says Otto. "That's my other motto. The one I mean, is, I feel fine, and I'm out of line, because I design where the sun don't shine...

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