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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Four Magazines

After my end-of-summer vacation with power outage, I'm slowly catching up on many things: news, my inbox, work, and reading. Falling within the latter is a number of magazine issues I've recently acquired. Below are some comments from my quick reads of each.

ArchitectureBoston, Science Issue
ArchitectureBoston is a quarterly publication of the Boston Society of Architects, one of the oldest chapters of the American Institute of Architects, having started in 1867, ten years after the AIA was formed. The magazine itself started many years later, in 1997 with editor Elizabeth Padjen, FAIA. Each issue revolves around a theme, and Fall 2011's is Science, made evident by the test-tube sculpture on the front cover (Pattern Recognition, Helmick + Schecter, 2007). Inside, the theme is addressed from a variety of angles in features that look at the integration of science-based research into practice, Building Performance Evaluation (BPE), how architects can learn from how scientists think, the science of buildings, and a photo essay on environmental change. Not surprisingly, science is seen to address architecture most directly in terms of sustainability, in both quantifiable and theoretical ways. Yet as Padjen warns, science as the latest metaphor of choice for architecture runs the risk of becoming another trend like linguistics decades ago. Instead she calls for the development of "a culture of true research and shared knowledge" in architecture, something especially pertinent now as green building products veer even further from the profession's knowledge base.

Mark No. 33
Previously I've reviewed the Dutch architecture magazine Mark a few times, most recently with No. 27. This year's August/September issue is the second with a brand new design by Mainstudio, though the content sections are pretty much the same as before: Notice Board, Cross Section, Viewpoint (it's "Men of Mark" subtitle now gone), Long Section, and Service Area. The most notable design change is the cover, which hints at the changes to the text and photos inside, and the binding, which is a simple strip of tape, in this case orange, meaning the color stands out on one's bookshelf as Mark, not the magazine's logo/title. Inside the illustrations and text appear to be larger than in the previous design; this is certainly good for photos and drawings, and it gives the text a prevailing boldness. All "floats" on pages free of the lines that previously structured the content. All in all the layout is simpler and easier to read. The featured projects continue Mark's focus on cutting-edge architecture all over the world, with J. Mayer H.'s popular Metropol Parasol in Seville, Spain and the Jeongok Prehistory Museum by X-TU Architects on the cover, among others. But not everything is pretty pictures of innovative architecture. No. 33 also features a "Letter from Sheffield" by Steve Parnell, an interview with lawyer Larry Gainen on "some 'architectural' horror stories" from his practice, a piece on structural engineer Niccolo Baldassini's (RFR) work on some starchitect designs, and of course I'm drawn to the interview on books, in this case with Momoyo Kaijima of Atelier Bow-Wow. At just under 20 bucks, the six-times-a-year magazine is the equivalent of the monthly Architectural Record and Architect Magazine, and about twice as big as each. Sounds good to me.

PIN-UP Magazine, Issue 10
The subtitle of PIN-UP Magazine is the "magazine for architectural entertainment." While this is a phrase that I find a little odd (is architecture entertaining? to who? is entertainment missing from other architectural publications?), the impression I get is of a publication with the heart of a zine, a foot in academia, an appreciation of the naughty, and an insider's view of architecture. The "Pin-Up Board" that starts the issue calls itself a "grab bag," but the same could be said of the longer features that comprise the rest of pages. The board includes short pieces on Philip Johnson's Brick House, vertical urban factories, RO/LU's front yard of grass and Cor-Ten, and Arno Brandlhuber discussing the design of porn sets, for example, while the features present ten questions with ten young New York City architects, a photo essay of Rogelio Salmona's brickwork, an interview with Santiago Calatrava, and specially commissioned side tables by various designers. In its embrace of design and fashion (some features include details on the clothes the pictured architects are wearing, much like fashion magazines), as well as its willingness to features sometimes crude photography, reminds me of Nest Magazine, the defunct but much-loved magazine on the wide-range of residential interiors, many quirky. PIN-UP is less restrained to a specific type of architecture, and I think its content can be appreciated by more than just architects; it may be "for architectural entertainment," but it's not entertainment only for architects.

Volume #27: Aging
Back in 2005 I reviewed Volume No.1, a then much anticipated project by Archis + AMO, and C-lab, the three protagonists of the "independent quarterly magazine that sets the agenda for architecture and design." Between that first issue and #27 I've only obtained the special issue bootlegged for the Urban China exhibition in 2009, so my early questions as to the influence of Volume is hard to say, but it's clear from #27 that things have changed just as they've stayed the same. In the former camp, the design and page layout have simplified so the content is at the fore, not buried under saturated color and graphics; in the case of the latter, the desire to push the limits that "challenge the mandate and self conception of architecture" towards "new modes of operation" seems stable. The theme "Aging" could be thought of by architect to simply mean "the design of nursing homes" -- a few are presented in the pages of issue 27 -- but the contributions by the wide circle of writers (much wider than the first issue, but a fairly closed circle nevertheless) cover the topic in many ways that are less direct towards traditional architectural production. These range from looking at how cities address and ignore aging populations to graphing how long materials last to questions about reconstructing cities and even how the nuclear industry looks ahead billions of years. I grabbed the issue because of Deane Simpson's pieces on The Villages, the world's largest retirement community, a place I have been to many times. I've always thought the place deserved some study, since it's been overshadowed by the nearby Florida community Celebration and offers more lessons on the reality of planned communities rather than one Disney ideal. Simpson's well-illustrated essay hit on a number of things I've witnessed, but it opened my eyes to its history and its economic and political characteristics. Coming after a piece on Iranian bazaars, it's a good illustration of Volume's broader take on architecture, culture, and politics.

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