Tag Archives: archizines

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.


On the Drive of Writing (and Reading)

             © Pedro Gadanho, Untitled (Tallinn Winter, 2011).  Soundtrack here.


Translator Richard Howard writing on Roland Barthes reminds us of the latter’s fierce determination to assert “the pleasure we must take in our reading as against the indifference of (mere) knowledge.” Barthes, himself, evoked the writerly bliss as that which “unsettles the reader’s historical, cultural, psychological assumptions,” a specific event that “brings a crisis to his relation with language.” Meanwhile, it sounds like architecture only recently has come to be seen as a form of knowledge, a language that is related to something more than just erecting buildings. Now that its erogenous zones have been reallocated, maybe the bliss of writing (and reading) on architectural matters can be about something else. It may now be about merrily upturning our liaison to architecture’s very foundations, instead of further tying us down to its fundamentalisms, its recurring institutional incarcerations, its plain unfortunate downturns.”

in “On Experimental Architectural Writing and Its Media”

This is one of sixteen sections in a text I have recently contributed to the catalogue of the exciting Archizines exhibition, opening this Friday November 4th at the Architectural Association, in London.

While Beyond was chosen as one of the 60 independent architectural magazines on show, Elias Redstone was also so kind as to challenge me to dwell on “why it is again critically imperative for creative, fictional and personal narratives to be inventive in regards to architectural discourse and practice” – as related to media where this is still possible, as against the general (main)streamlining of culture.

The resulting exploration was an opportunity to finally weave together some wandering ideas on the pleasures of writing and reading architecture, especially after my participation in the On Experimental Writing panel debate, at the CCA, back  in February. (The podcast is still available on that link).

Beyond criticism, press releases and other boring reports on what’s up in the world of architecture, I specially wanted to focus on how writing can and should be a practice on its own terms, one that nonetheless only accomplishes itself when it reaches the reader through what Barthes appropriately called bliss.

Being an avid, curious reader, I tend to consider any text that fails to sustain my attention simply badly written. Fiction itself is about the precise technique with which one delivers a story, more than about the inventiveness of the narrated facts. Good writing is one that captures its reader through both idea and form.

This being said, there is a considerable difference in between the baroque complexity of one Pierre Bourdieu – in which the sheer strength of the ideas surmounts a decided, purposeful difficulty imposed on his readers as a sort of initiation rite – and someone whose thoughts are simply insipid and unclear.

Texts must want to communicate. They must want to communicate ideas, or emotions, or even straightforward information. In an age of information surplus, texts that lack such inner, initial desire, become merely superfluous. Vain. And the same should be said of any form of communication, architecture included.