Architects gaze at the urban landscape in a rather specialized way – often forgetting that there are other ways of looking at the city. Three magazines recently added to my still inexplicably growing collection of new periodicals suggest three peculiar ways to engage with the contemporary urbe.
As the name suggests, Grey looks at the urban as grey matter. Not the brainy stuff, but the concrete one. And even if one short story in the first issue of the little free mag is called The Brutalist, concrete isn’t here because of a particular infatuation with the modernist building material with which politicians, contractors and most architects would love to dress up every bit of our cities.
Grey is grey because this is the colour of the roadway. And the urban pavement is the terrain in which skaters dwell. Which means that Grey comes out for the love of skateboarding through the metropolis. It shows us a city in which the essential psycho-geography is defined by “spots,” “obstacles,” “ledges,” and “road gaps.”
Boneshaker mag, on the other foot, looks at the city through its “bumps” and “jolts”, its “rides” and “routes”, its “flows” and “lanes.” In this case the protagonist is the bicycle, and the new pro-sustainable, politicized leisure culture, and all other cycling trivialities that surround this old smooth operator.
Boneshaker is a quarterly coming from Bristol, and its first issue certainly aimed at producing enlightenment on every aspect of bicycology – from the story of your local repair workshop to rallies in L.A., from H.G. Wells or Conan Doyle two-wheeled quotes to a touching story on how to take your turns in an aggressive urban environment such as Guatemala City.
As for Car Park, you would by now expect that it too would be dedicated to all-democratically celebrate car culture and the way we look at cities from behind the wheel rather than on top of them. But nope.
Here, finally, the title is misleading and we are rather looking at a more traditional publication that carries the sort of black-and-white photos of gritty-looking cityscapes that have always made the joys of so many filmmakers.
Suddenly and weirdly, however, it’s the nice, grainy, and sharp avant-garde gaze that comes across as old-fashioned and slightly out of place in regards to the prosaic metropolitan reality of today’s new city cultures.