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Sunday, July 11, 2010

29GPS Architecture

One of the first architecture-related applications to explore the potential of the iPad is Edition29_ARCHITECTURE_001 by 29GPS LLC. Other "editions" include racing cars and sports, with 002 for architecture focusing on the Salk Institute by Louis I. Kahn. Issue 001 of the digital magazine presents ten residential projects in a portrait format.


Full-size photos "showcas[e] the new generation of modernist architects and their creations through cinematic photographic storytelling." Navigation occurs in a few ways: scrolling to the right through the roughly 100 "pages"; clicking the red box in the upper left corner to bring up a page index link; or clicking from the table of contents that is one flick of the finger from the splash page (top, a photo from 29GPS web page; photos below are by me).

[A visual page index is reached via the red box in upper left.]

The best way to experience the magazine is a slow scroll through the ten houses. An ambient soundtrack can accompany the leisurely trip around five continents, a recording of birds and other sunrise sounds at Richard Neutra's house in LA.

["Neutra Garden Sounds" can accompany your scrolling.]

The appeal of a scroll through the issue is not lost on EDITION29, who places advertising intermittently between some of the houses. The minimal and tasteful ads will appeal to designers and others looking at the content, and their abundant white space sets them apart from the main features. Where many advertisements in print magazines make their spreads resemble the magazine's own content -- requiring "special advertising section" headers -- here the ads deliberately let themselves stand out.

[One of a few ads for STUA furniture.]

Given the portrait format and the choice for full-size photos, a couple things needed to happen: landscape and square formats are accommodated by an automatic zoom/pan or a manual pan across pages; architectural drawings (plans, sections, elevations) and text are provided in small pop-ups denoted by small red boxes with a plus-sign.

[St. Andrew's Beach House by Sean Godsell features audio alongside the photos.]

So is Edition29's Architecture Issue a showcase of architecture or photography? The easy answer is both, but the way explanatory text and drawings (many of which are mislabeled, i.e. sections are called plans when plans are not available) are downplayed in favor of professional photography, clearly understanding the design of the houses is not as important as soaking in their imagery. A few houses also include multimedia: Sean Godsell contributes audio snippets, which start automatically when the page is reached. Escher GuneWardena Sola/Wright residence features video as well as audio.

[Escher GuneWardena speak about the Sola/Wright residence.]

More audio and video would make a lot more sense. It would fill in the gaps between the photos and the drawings/text, but would be more enjoyable than the last two. And what sets apart a digital magazine from its print counterpart more than multimedia? These elements may increase the file size of each issue (ARCHITECTURE_001 is 123mb), but they work well in the experience of the issue. To flip through beautiful photos and then be treated to the architect's explanation of the design is certainly a benefit to having a digital magazine. Will 002 feature snippets of Kahn? That would make it a gem.


Clicking the upper left corner while looking at a particular house brings up the ability to bookmark the page (didn't work for me, for some reason), the distance from ones iPad, and a list of tweets about the house and the issue, in addition to the page index, soundtrack, and a link to Edition29's other issues. I could see this sidebar being of more use, more helpful to the reader and more networked to other relevant media. Why not even a link to the architect's home page?


As is, this first issue of Edition29's Architecture series is visually impressive and full of great potential for learning about projects via multimedia and the iPad interface, but also in need of some editing (an error in photographer credit was apparent as was bad grammar in some of the architect-contributed text). As somebody who thinks educating people about the qualities of architecture is important, I want Edition29 to be more than a slide show of professional photography. It is in some parts, but not enough. Nevertheless this issue is a promising start to what I'm sure will be plenty more architectural eye candy.

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