Category Archives: other little magazines

Other Little Magazines # 22 – Rainbow of Archizines

When Disegno arrived at my doorstep around the last days of December, I browsed through its tactile, lushious pages and decided that this was it.

With so many new things* piling up, I absolutely had to do a round up of some of the inaugural issues of ‘little’ magazines that, while lying in my office floor, also took part in the recent and continued revival of the archizine.

Intriguingly so, Dissegno itself spoke of how design magazines have been consciously pushing the borders of the architectural, not only into ever-new interdisciplinary connectivities or wide web platforms, but also ending up in territories that no longer pertain exclusively to architecture.

There was a time around the beginning of the 20th century in which design, in its acception of object creation, was still the bastard offspring of architectural mastery. Now, as it somewhat scandalously seems, it is architecture that more often than not is seen under the wide and prolific umbrella of design culture.

Thus, what once was for me the quintessential compel of an event such as ExperimentaDesign – the notion that activities as far apart as graphic design and urban planning are unified under the broad cultural inheritance of the progetto – is now also the implicit drive for the editorial mission of previous Icon editor and Disegno founder Johanna Agerman Ross.

This being said, I had the intention of reviewing in this post more or less every genre represented in my small but proud collection of number one editions, from the student zine lookalike full of star contributions, such as the 2010 Block, architecture etc., back to the academic-journal-refusing-to-be-academic also full of star contributions, such as the 2003 Log.


London’s Block, architecture etc. and…                 New York-based Log.

But alas, moving to another continent has a way of being hard on your luggage selection, and so I’ve decided to focus this update on two geographically bounded magazines that appeared during last summer, one in the unlikely – or not so – outskirts of Porto, the other in no longer so classical Rome.

The first of those, Peachvelvet International, or PI.MAG, belongs to a not unpredictable trend of publications catering locally to all the resilient lovers of an enduring, softly hued architectural minimalism.

This is all about the well-respected late modern tendeza that is still creating bridges and bonds for lone, misunderstood architects in disparate locations like the Iberian peninsula and relevant sections of the islands of Japan, United Kingdom or Switzerland.

PI.MAG’s opening manifesto is naturally and wikipedically about the color “white,” which as we know nowadays comes in manifold gradations right down to pitch black. Grey is thus welcome into the mag’s velvety, impeccable pages.

And while overall blinding white is still the domain of dodgy radicals – and being that the editors are “not obsessed with white or white buildings” – the delicate, tactile palette of this zine also welcomes the faint tinges of birch or even the manly rusty orange of Corten steel.

So as to complete its eulogy of descriptive, tint neutrality, PI.MAG rounds off with a piece of criticism – yes! amazing! – that dedicates yet another diatribe of fine ironical analysis to the color “green” and its many sustainable shades.

At this point we are finally allowed to uncover that “green” is not only the new black. “Green” has also become an ideological tool that conceals the lack of architectural quality of all the buildings that refuse to be simply and naturally… white. It really makes you wonder.

Boundaries speaks of entirely dissimilar colors. And that is suddenly warmingly welcome. As you flip through the magazine, you cannot avoid the color of dirt, and the color of people, and the color of naïve attempts at happiness. And this is good, and it feels right in a time in which a politics of radical aesthetics has to substitute again for the faint aestheticizations of the nice and cute.

As stated in its inaugural editorial, the borders in this magazine are not intended to be that of “the political frontier.” However, there is a bold desire to push some edges, namely in regards to what the stances of the architectural profession have been within a “new economy.”

As a peer-reviewed magazine that gets architects, researchers, urban planners, historians and geographers together, Boundaries is precisely about not being neutral, about joining forces, about enrichening the dialogue with differing positions. It does not acritically want to just caress the well established. And that is as promising as dedicating its first issue to Africa.

Opening up to Africa’s many realities, the project reviews in Boundaries reach from cooperation to tourist operations. In either case, they recall what to me emerges as still an essential problem: how to sustain the innovative qualities of architectural research when cultural and material resources are scarce.

And this question somehow relates to a worrisome impression which has often overcome me along the last couple of years. This is the possibility that, rather than the emergent economies we’re currently looking at, Africa might indeed be the future. For the better and the worse.

In that sense, it is only logical that we start paying some serious attention to this large, often forgotten continent.


Other Little Magazines #22 – The Unclassifiable

As I’ve briefly mentioned in my last Other Little Magazines post, there’s an enormous amount of extraordinary magazines piling in my desk that certainly deserve an urgent reference. Harvesting through them all, I now decided to pick on the unclassifiable ones.

As those who have actually once read books will remember, Jorge Luis Borges unsettled the notion of taxonomy in an eccentric tale called “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.” The magazines that I hold here would precisely deserve something like the absurd categories Borges made up in his biblio-zoological incursion.

Toilet Paper, for a start, is quite an odd one. An artist’s project published by Maurizion Cattelan and Pier Paolo Ferrari since June 2010, it is already on its 8th issue in two years, which is something remarkable given its surrealistic contents.

Entirerly composed by a juxtaposition of highly narrative, vaguely retro-looking images Toilet Paper is intellectual porn at its provocative best. Self-proclaimed a “new generation magazine”, it is not clear if it should be filed under “ post-Warholian sick glam,” “anthropological studies” or simply “visual culture.”

A more orthodox, but similarly almost random collection of artist visuals appeared on the first issue of Toronto-based Hunter and Cook back in 2008.

And even if this magnificently named mag falls more typically under the category of the “art magazine”, the stuff in it is still untypical enough for you to be temporarily unsure if you’re flipping through a trash metal fanzine, a photo souvenir album or an alternative comic revue.

As for the equally Canadian Victor, even if it originated from a bunch of graphic design students, its omnivorous nature also makes it pretty undefineable.

Victor is part of a publication triumvirate that is centered in fictional characters, including issues dedicated to Bruno and Nadia. Following the wanderings and psychological landscape of such characters it goes into pretty anything, from weird everyday stories to favorite records, from conversations and messaging with friends and strangers to, above all, great illustration work.

Staying within the category of “magazines with person’s names” let me also introduce you to handsome Sebastian. Its cover says it all: just a first name – a supposed alter ego – and a slightly distorted, disturbing male figure.

Sebastian appeared in London in 2011 and while it promised to show up twice a year to talk about style and culture, it hasn’t yet produced any descendancy.

Meanwhile, its graceful and varied tour debut includes a very personal visit to a tainted  New York Architecture and interviews with remarkable figures like gallerist Maureen Paley, “artisan purist” Geoffrey B Small and delicious “expressionist cooks” Lily Vanilli and Margot Henderson.

Another beautiful tiny magazine full with amazing characters and personas is the smartly called Afterzine. Sonic Thurston Moore, pop* guru Peter Saville and classic Henry David Thoreau were my few previous acquaintances, which means Afterzine became for me another feast of the unfamiliar.

Here, the variety goes from essays and fictions to photography and graphics, and from light waves and roundographs to book spines and –free food, all however connected by the notion of “negative space” and the affectionate curatorial direction of Vanity Fair editor Hamish Robertson.

The fact that more and more magazines are now curated by… – just remember the pioneer A Magazine Curated By… – naturally brings very individual idiosyncrasies into this particular media, making zines prone to quite subjective ravings and juxtapositions.

In the case of Science Poems, the articulation of science and art, i.e. the lasting dichotomy of C. P. Snow on the two cultures, but also the ghostly presence of science fiction as role model, leads to a most unsual publication, especially considering  it is curated by a collective with a design background.

Is it a mag? Is it a numbered book? Is it a catalogue? No, it’s Science Poems!…

The content packed in this 144 pages by OK Do‘s Anni Puolakka and Jenna Sutella, include anything from interviews with philosophers of science, curators, artists and designers to tales on heavenly bodies, brain visions, DNA junk, life-breeding meteorites, volcanic eruptions or big-bang machines, always with the bold intent to “avoid traditional categories or disciplinary boundaries.”

In the end, not only the format of the magazine has become elastic enough to accommodate the most extreme variations – from serial bookazines to artist experiences, from one-off objects to virtual catalogues – but this is also a media that allows for the unclassifiableness and wild diversity of the world to come at the reach of one’s hands in compact form.

This is, alas, part of the diffuse, abbondant phenomena that may today be preparing us for a dramatic post-oil scenario. The current media wealth, of which magazines are only a small example, ultimately allows anyone to gather relevant information and worldviews without necessarily having to be physically present in what used to be the traditional centres of knowledge and culture diffusion.

For the good part of an expanding Western Modern culture, being outside the centre would seem like a condemnation to locality and provincialism. Now sometimes feels as if the assumed centres of cultural production are those blind to the profusion of what’s going on.* (Even if the centre is always recruiting.)

One of the uncertain advantages of our networked, media societies lies precisely in the fact that connectivity makes it quite indifferent where you may presently be rooted. Rather, it’s all about where and how your senses are really pluggin’ in.

Other Little Magazines #21 – From Blog to Print

The launch of the Portuguese edition of The Printed Blog inspired me to review the growing fad of blogs that want to become magazines. This being said, the pile of new magazines awaiting a reference in my desk was also about to crumble as spectacularly as the tower of Babel and I had to trim it down in anyway I could.

It is not that the new franchise of the apparently sucessful The Printed Blog deserves too much consideration. Being launched in the silly season,* this seems to have convinced its editors to look for ultra-lite, fast-consuming, totally unconsequential “literature” found in the Portuguese internet.

Perhaps they hoped that this would reflect a general local attitude of postponing the need for serious thinking on the current state-of-affairs of this small Atlantic backyard. Or on anything else, for that matter. Like the t-shirt I saw the other day, this edition tells me “I smile because I have no idea of what’s going on.”

As such, the only memorable fragment of writing I found in this entire, shallow publication was a curious, self-aware quote by my Facebook friend Marta Lança – who incidentally I’ve never met in real life – who rightly hints that in the blogosphere “only a few follow Deleuze’s advice: to resist the social forces which compel us to talk when we have nothing to say.”

Unfortunately, this compilation of original pieces by supposedly “important” Portuguese blogguers – who to appear in print apparently need the moral support from some television figures and a vaguely erotic wrapping – tends to confirm a rather depressing truth.

Indeed, if it’s penible enough to sometimes have certain thoughts perpetuated in personal weblogs, it’s downright thick to go through the trouble of selecting, editing and assembling those into a glossy, resource-wasting paper product…

At least, however, the new publication has induced me to look at better examples of blogs that resist embracing the potential forgetfulness of an internet which is becoming the giant graveyard of our fleeting beliefs and opinions.

These are the blogs that, tending to be specialized rather than general, and normally being based on the sharing of relevant information and commentary, obviously felt that there was enough substance in them to justify the move into the realm of the presumed eternity of print.

As suggested by Chris Pearson we are indeed at the forefront of a petit paradigm shift. Firstly there was the time in which the well-known, Goliath magazines went on to grab a good chunk of the internet’s growing share of attention. Now it’s time for those who kickstarted and consolidated their audience in the web to try and convince it that they should pay for the correspondent physical versions.

Within this scenario, some people are simultaneously more and less ambitious and they go directly from their ultra-popular blogs into the book format. In the field of architecture, we have our very own Jeoff Manaugh as a good example.  Books are hopefully more timeless than mags and they require considerably less effort if one has already abundant material for a one shot enterprise.

Magazines, on the other hand, being to lasting literature what tweets are to blogs, are more akin to some blog’s idiosyncrasies. Magazines too, at least the niche ones, normally rely on presenting new trends, new authors, new products as part of their essential presence in the middlebrow mediasphere.

Following on the pioneering spirit of Its’ Nice That – with its faithful reproduction of the blog’s shorthand logic of one image and a few words onto the printed page, out since April 2009 and now at its 6th issue – let me then introduce you to two recent examples of this revealing trend.

M|I|S|C is published from Toronto since the Spring of 2011 and it’s true to another important characteristic of blogs: it is totally and exclusively written, published, edited and directed by Idris Mootee. Idris also provide us with most pictures courtesy of his Leica and travels. Way to go, Idris!

Being a little too obsessively focused on branding, i.e. marketing, the collection of posts from one year of Idris’ Innovation Playground has the peculiar quality of being more didactical than usual – which, together with its portfolio presentations, explains why adverts come mostly from design institutions.

The mag’s first edition is indeed almost entirely dedicated to issues connected with its motto title Movement|Innovation|Structure|Complexity, thus extensively coaching us through jargon concepts like “design thinking,” “wild card scenarios,” “creativity,” “crowdsourcing,” or “corporate imagination.”

This is like as if magazines are being induced to become ever more specific by the very specialization of blogs. Which also suggests that our education manuals may about to go through severe changes so as to become sexier and cooler – so as to actually again have some lonely soul reading them.

Circus, on the other hand, first (and lastly) presented itself as another bookazine compiling “the best of the web”(as The Printed Blog also claims), so becoming another result of “the ultimate clash between online and print.”

Loyal to the high level specialization of blogs, Circus’ premiére issue was totally dedicated to fashion, asserting right at its first pages that the internet has definitely altered the very perception and functioning of such creative fields.

As such, Circus goes beyond your usual fashion magazine and it too is a pedagogical journey through unexpected fetishes of the fashion blogscape, basically relating fashion to everything, including architecture.

In this densely packed bundle you may go from the life of models and the perils of the profession’s journalists, to the more obscure aspects of the “woolie scene,” the “fashion disabled,” “fleckologie” and other such personal slot preferences.

While most effectively illustrating the notion of “bloggers gone wild”, as others “blogger’s magazines” will certainly do in the near future, Circus is finally and ultimately self-reflexive on the very nature of the different media it bridges. Be it when blogging, fashion, or blogs turning to mags are echoed, reflexivity arises as the stronger trait of this new territory of communication’s precursors.

In this sense, these publications also subtly disclose that people are starting to acknowledge a renewed phenomenon. In a world riddled with information overload we more than ever seem to long for those figures or media that will digest, reference and point us to relevant content.

And this is ultimately why, despite the cultural or publishing financial crisis, the editorial, curatorial and consultant professions are on the rise and give place to entirely new forms of stardom. As Bruce Sterling recently put it, it’s all about “the trained pig and the rare truffle.”

Flooded by “intelligent noise” – a notion urban strategist Arun Jain suggested at the recent “Another Urban Future” think tank  – many people increasingly cherish those who can somehow reassure them that they are investing their precious time in the piece of information or opinion that best suits their needs.

And yet, even with a little help from my guru – and as philosopher Modjtaba Sadria reminded us in the same discussion of future cities  – there is still a crucial difference between information and knowledge. You have to first know what to do with the former, so that the latter may eventually become an integral part of what you are or want to be.

Other Little Magazines #20 – Ego Trips

As this weblog has been gently qualified as self-serving – which it totally is, but then aren’t they all by the very definition of the medium? – I finally got the nerve to dedicate this section to those little magazines whose première issues featured contributions by this abnegated servant of his very small audience.

I had already referred to Chicote – which brought to quickly consuming glory my first, but apparently not last opinion editorial – and this is finally the occasion to complete the triumvirate of publications that incorporated your humble me, myself and I* in their very first apparitions.

If it wasn’t for my own embarrassment, the first of these mags was long due a more complete reference. DOMA came out already one year ago in Macedonia, edited by Antoino Petrov and Sofija Grandakovska.

While introducing us to a plethora of Eastern European writers and architects, DOMA includes an impressive list of international contributors that ranges from Ben Nicholson or Marina Abramovic, to Michael Meredith, Alison Currie and Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss.

Its contents provide us with an unusual debate on the “(im)material meanings” of doma/home as a “meta-fantastical question.” Thus, its many appealing stories and essays “unfold the confluence of agglomerated meanings and objects that influence the cultural geography of our cities, and hence the production and creation of new terms of DOMA.”

My own contribution – a fictional scenario that was eventually republished online through the CCA’s Infinite Index – dwells precisely on how the aspiration to a European identity, with its territorial equivalence to a fortressed domicile, could be subject to dramatic shifts in the course of coming climate changes.

The other magazine I want to mention here is called Lazlo. It came out a couple of months ago in Berlin and it is edited, art directed and designed by none other than… Lazlo Moulton himself.

As it self-presents itself on Facebook, Lazlo is “a half-yearly independent magazine drawing inspiration and content from (and aiming to reach) the academic chair and the club dance floor, the artist’s atelier and the scientist’s laboratory, the catwalk and the sidewalk.”

This is the kind of other little magazine I enjoy digging out for my readership: transversal, witty, eclectic, personal, ironic, elegant, generous, political, self-conscious, playful, avant-garde, literary, modest, critical. A magazine on everything, which may well feed you through the all of Summer.

Curiously, its issue nº 0 is also “On Dwelling” – as once reflected by Heidegger, but not only. Avoiding excessive intellectualization of the theme, it just welcomes its reader into a self-defining journey through which one can possibly “go home again.” Thus emerges a subjective take on culture as a potential comfort zone for rebuilding the self in an age of fragmented, shattered dreams.

My contribution here is one of a few interviews I’ve given recently to different international media – another was to French magazine D’Architecture, and yet another one appeared on the 2nd online issue of Zurich/ETH-based Architectural Papers. For Lazlo, the conversation was exclusively dedicated to Beyond, Short Stories on the Post-Contemporary.

Dwelling on Beyond is surely convenient, if indeed the series is to survive the current adverse economical condition and the end of print as we know it. While the first issues of Beyond are out and about since 2009 – and seem to have become stuck at the cult status of the “super-small-niche” – perhaps I haven’t been self-serving enough so as to constantly bombard you with news on it.

The truth is that, even if a curator or editor is firstly researching and conveying the production of others, when it comes to commercial matters it is quite hard and uncomfortable for some of us to also assume the role of the marketer.

Nonetheless, other people seem to be gradually picking up on this particular little magazine, with it being included in recent reviews in ICON #94 and Abitare #513. Hopefully, the word of mouth will slowly get across, at least to those who may be potentially interested in it.

The fact is that, although we are speaking of “the rise and rise of independent magazines” one should not forget that these are mostly the result of luxurious ego trips of a handful of people that still believe that generating and sharing content is a fulfilling mission. Unfortunately, and particularly in these tough times, there will always be limits to such unabashed generosity and passion.

Other Little Magazines #19 Views from Academia…

Murphy was a bilingual journal of “architectural history and theory,” one of the few that ever came out in Portugal. It was published from 2006 to 2008 at the University of Coimbra Press, the project of architectural historian Paulo Varela Gomes – whose critical writings around the 90s were quite referential for me.

Denoting a chronic local yearning for external recognition, the name of the publication stems from the architectural traveler who, around the end of the 18th century, first reported on Portuguese architecture to its European counterparts.

Murphy’s first editorial aimed high at contradicting a local ad hoc academic situation, which, when it comes to theory, is portrayed here with straightforward accuracy as a kind of anything goes, while the essayistic nature of most writing in the field would only disguise its lack of scientific rigor.

Welcoming its desire to overcome “the obstacles that have caused academic work in Portugal to fall behind” – while I doubted its subservient willingness to emulate the most traditional Anglo-Saxon journals – I immediately asked myself if two fifty-something page essays on regional medieval matters were the best way to start catering for a new readership and create global impact…

This would be the case, if such essays presented overwhelming new methodologies or radical ways of thinking that would profoundly affect the way we understand our building and urban matters today. Unfortunately, these were writings that preached rather exclusively, conventionally and conveniently to the ultra-niche and the already converted.

In Murphy’s opening edition even the more contemporary “approaches” seemed to suggest a middlebrow view of academic production. They might sporadically experiment with a sexier language, or even provide the occasional insight for the analysis of the present, but they also basically procrastinated on how to maintain things as they are.

At the risk of flogging a dead horse I would say that, ultimately, most of Murphy’s first contributions risked being integral to the feeble, but dominant arena in which to be “scientific” is to quote correctly and put together the right references in a permanent, protracted historiographical reconstruction – rather than displaying the capability to introduce the subtlest of paradigm shifts in current knowledge or practice.

Le Journal Spéciale’Z, which I’ve discovered because of my recent visits to ESA, is altogether keener to dwell on those other territories of intellectual exploration where connaissance is faster erected with the intense, unpretentious delight of simultaneous recollection and discovery.

Here – and in the parallel blog –  you may truly discern new interesting voices beyond the usual suspects of contemporary architectural theory – although you might also find an interview with the ever-intense Antoine Picon amidst the well-assorted bunch that rédacteur en chef Sony Devabhaktuni puts together.

Hence, in the inaugural issue of the Spéciale’Z you are bound to hit upon several gems of unexpected reflective sway – either if you want to know more about urban “audio topographies” (Shannon Werle) or you are otherwise interested in how neuroaesthetics is soon bound to enhance your perceptions of public space (Ruzica Bozovic-Stamenovic).

What else would you want of a little scholarly magazine? 🙂

Contrary to an obedient reverence of all things past – which may inform, but sometimes also immobilizes the historically-prone practitioner – Le Journal Spéciale’Z is more inclined to joyfully accept that “every generation” declares “the language of the precedent generation to be useless.”

As such, the authors of this particularly liminar suggestion – Johannes Binotto and Andri Gerber – also recall in their excellent Narration/Non-Ville/Description that, “to understand the world, we have first to understand our understanding.”(A great line from German ethnologist Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs.)

At the risk of seeming too obvious (or paradoxical), one would state that the re-foundation of any theory – or historical research – has to operatively gaze at the present moment, rather than only stare at the recognized recognitions of past souls, as bright as they may still shine in the firmament of the undead.

And while we are perfectly able to acknowledge that our understanding is constantly built upon the shoulders of others, we are also allowed – and advised – to use that tiny extra height to look further into new, previously invisible landscapes of possibility. Expectedly, on a clear day you may then see forever.

With the newly acquired insights stemming from both present and past we can certainly again and again defrost the realities that lie apparently petrified behind us. But we should even more preferably not loose sight of the bizarre, unlikely obstacles that lay copiously ahead.

Other Little Magazines # 18 Whatever happened to…

Back in the Spring of 2001, LAB first came out in London with a plain opening statement: “Let’s do a magazine. Ok.” This emerged as a reply to another simple question, quite typical of people just starting their professional lives: “Shit, what are we going to do now?”

The magnificent editorial entrepreneurship of youth – and other like-minded people faced with such an eternal question – has always led to the idyllic development of magazines that, although beautifully done, didn’t make it past a couple of issues. This post is the first dedicated to a few of those.

LAB itself was the baby of Pavlova Design, and art directors Astrid Stravo and Joana Ramos-Pinto. Under the theme of Arrivals, its first issue was a catalogue of young creative talent with a tasty presentation that was soon to die on the footsteps of ongoing commercial indie mags like Spanish Neo2.

And even if color is already evaporating from its pages and fashion photo shoots, LAB was avant-garde enough to feature much graphic design that still feels fresh, articles that one can still enjoy, and interviews with people that are still pretty much around – from soundtrackable Finlay Quaye to ever-likeable FAT.

A couple of years later, whilst LAB sadly soon faded into oblivion, on the other side of the world and the specter, Influence was a promising New York mag that, despite its high ambitions and its cool backgrounds, also left only a few traces behind after its brief publication during 2003.

Its somewhat pedagogical, unexpected contents ranged from stories about Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Gilliam Wearing, to artist essays about photography, cinema, and the postapocalyptic ruin (Walead Beshty) or the distinction between the sacred and the profane (Daniel Mirer).

Influence was intended as an art magazine about “the ever-changing forms of artistic ideas.” However, the fact that it was published by fashion gurus such as Jan-Willem Dikkers and previous American Vogue creative director Raul Martinez perhaps explains the short-lived experience of the publication. There are worlds that, despite appearances, don’t really blend together.

The last lost magazine I dug out of my archives for today’s post is somehow symmetrical to Influence. Although edited by an outcast art critic, it tried to cross over onto the world of commercial publications with a fashion twist

Chicote premièred last October in Lisbon, but I’ve just had news that its second issue – though ready to go to print – will never make it to paper. Which is absolutely no surprise when the IMF (aka the International Mother Fuckers in Icelandic) is precisely today landing in Portugal.

While Chicote is now another weblog cum facebook page, its first issue promised to whip up the sensibilities of a too dormant country. And this was an intention that, of course, was not totally welcome by the advertising wolf pack.

Being that this mag promised kinky provocations and counterculture warfare – from legal drugs to techno-utopia – I happily contributed to the project with my shrapnelesque views on how we should return to a more virulent criticism, much alike our 19th century literary predecessors.

In memoriam, here is the article I published in Chicote’s first issue, in what was to be the sister column of this very blog – Smithereens. Suddenly this text somehow felt as a vaguely adequate prequel to some minor polemics currently assaulting the Portuguese architectural blogsphere.

(And since I’m at it, I  also released here and  there my second, unpublished article for the mag – which I prepared last October in the wake of the biennale, the triennale, and other likely annales, but, again, may still present some durable assertions when all things critic are currently considered around here.)

There are always innumerable obscure reasons for some magazines to make it and others not. But it’s memorable that these wild flowers may briefly blossom in the midst of today’s mainstream manure – even if for one season only.

Other Little Magazines # 17 – One Short History

While in Montreal, I had the opportunity to browse through some of the classics that made the notion of the “little magazine” so dear to us all. And so, from the exquisite CCA library I picked a few challenging inaugural issues on which to expand in this unending section of Shrapnel C. (Soundtrack here.)

Utopie, subtitled Sociologie de l’urbain, is probably most referential nowadays because in its editorial board was a bright sociological mind – one who became a reference for architects and other cultural producers: Jean Baudrillard.

As today one flips through this little French revue’s número un – brought out in May 1967 – one again realizes how some important architecture futures first crystallize in settings that are distant from architecture’s specialized media. Indeed, it is sometimes in other media that the first attempts to synthesize a particular moment in architecture comes about.

As such, along the “critical thinking” on urbanism, or timely notes on “marxisme et esthétique” and the consumption of objects, it is also in this outsider’s publication that one suddenly discovers early discussions on the ephemeral in architecture – with topics ranging from the boutiques and the emergency habitats to Cedric Price or Archigram. How more up-to-date can you be?

And while Utopies dwelled on the imagination of the villes de papier – with unexpectedly early insights of the role of graphic novels in the visualization of urban futures – on the other side of the channel or the ocean, architects themselves were still clipping photocopies in the fashion of Corbusier, or desperately clinging to classicize modernism in the fashion of Mies.

About the same time as Utopie was coming out in revolutionary Paris, in swinging London the conceptual grandfather of Clip, Stamp, Fold and other contemporary adventures, a small black-and-white assemblage of photocopies by the name of clip-kit again got together Cedric Price, Mike Webb, and Reyner Banham, with all of them trying to pin down their references outside architecture – from cars and industrial caravans to gas tanks and the machine logic.

While trying to legitimize new languages in the realm of popular production, and even if self-proclaiming their own revolutionary promise or the concern “with progressive architectural ideas,” architects somehow seemed unaware of the true impact of their images and concepts in other cultural realms of their time.

On the other hand, half a dozen years later in New York, such “progressive” images were being subsumed to the archive by an enduring intellectual attempt to institutionalize modernism as the true and only rule of the architectural field.

Oppositions 1, brought out in September 1973 as a “Journal for Ideas and Criticism in Architecture” by the guiding hands of Peter Eisenman, Keneth Frampton and Mario Gandelsonas, was to dictate where the tectonic avant-garde really lied – from Colin Rowe’s reading of neoclassicism in Modern Architecture, down to Anthony Vidler’s analysis of utopia or Diana Agrest and Mario Gandelsonas’ “Semiotics and Architecture: Ideological Consumption or Theoretical Work”.

From then on, one could succinctly and polemically say that it took three decades for architectural media to again try and go “beyond architecture” – and its self-referential academic theories –as it happened with my last pick from the CCA’s collection: Volume #01, out in 2005 as a radical transformation of previous Archis magazine lead by Ole Bouman.

In this instance, blending AMO, the C-Lab and mysterious graphic insertions such as the Rive Gauche’s “Total Intellectual Freedom”, Volume was again to reset the coordinates of where the post-critical avant-garde should be – by fiercely committing to strong statements, visual liveliness and the notion of architecture as an expanded cultural field.

As Ole Bouman optimistically stated at this instance, architecture was again “a universal access code”, “a powerful kind of strategic intelligence”, “a medium for developing cultural concepts.” And yet, Beatriz Colomina funnily added elsewhere in the mag that as “our dentists suddenly think that architecture is important,” maybe it was about time “we should embrace its irrelevance.”

As architecture was strongly mediatized through other cultural media – from Time magazine to Wallpaper, you name it – so its theory and its specialized media had to move into the realm of communication, to again ground architecture’s relationship to a fast-moving society.

And in this respect – as in the respect of the stuff that makes magazines historically relevant – it is pretty amazing for me to realize as half a dozen years ago, in Volume’s pages one could already discern some of the questions that we are still currently enjoying to debate – from “unsolicited architecture” to “fiction,” and from “experimental writing” to all of today’s cherished “beyonds.”