Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review: Three Journals

Here are reviews of three journals/magazines that I've received recently; a couple that I'm familiar with and one that is completely new to me.

Boundaries #3: A few months ago I looked at the first two issues of Boundaries, a magazine out of Italy that develops a theme for each issue. "Contemporary Architecture in Africa" and "Architectures for Emergencies" are followed by "Architectures of Peace." It's clear where the focus of Boundaries lies: it's the humanitarian and under-served in the realm of architecture. Editor Luca Sampò is obviously not alone in this regard, as more organizations and firms dedicate themselves to architecture and design for the 99%, if you will. Regardless, in an issue like "Architecture of Peace" one can still find projects by Norman Foster, Daniel Libeskind, and Moshe Safdie, alongside lesser-known names like TYIN tegnestue Architects, Febrik, and Killian Doherty. In this regard it is the theme that prevails, not a particular type of architecture addressing such an idea as complex as peace.

City Vision #5: City Vision subtitles its magazine as "Independent Architecture Stuff," a vague but nevertheless telling phrase that hints at the variety and humor within its pages. City Vision is an entity that also exists as competitions, much like eVolo; the fifth issue of City Vision coincides with its New York CityVision Competition (now accepting registrations, by the way). Like the competition, the magazine's canvas is the city, but it is open ended in terms of how writers and curators address it. In a good mix of short and long pieces, the content includes an interview with filmmaker Valerio Mastandrea, a feature on Leong Leong, a piece on scripting and architecture, an opinion piece about power in architecture, a feature on Ball-Nogues, and so forth. A special feature includes architects, academics, and others addressing the question, "What is the future anyways?" (Answers are collected in the Past Shock tumblr site.) Like the city, the voices are many and diverse.

Log 24: It's been eight years since I reviewed the very first issue of Log, a publication by Anycorp, aka editor Cynthia Davidson. Back then I wrote, "Log is an attempt to create a critical context for writing about architecture in the present and maybe defining architecture's future." The same can be said about the 24th issue, which actually takes aim at defining a critical context for writing about architecture, just as architectural criticism is being batted about here and there as something over, more relevant than ever, or something in between. This issue sees it as necessary, but it asks contributors, "What is the state of architecture criticism today?" Very few actually answer that question directly, but by requiring each writer to have visited the building or space they critique, the question is answered indirectly in the various essays.

Many familiar Any/Log contributors are found in the pages of 24 -- Jeffrey Kipnis, Sylvia Lavin, Anthony Vidler -- but overall the mix was pretty well balanced relative to back issues, which are surprisingly on the esoteric side of academia. Highlights for me inlclude Craig Buckley's pieces on Lacaton & Vassal's Bois-le-Petre tower in Paris; Luis Fernandez-Galiano's essay on Caixa Forum; Lavin's piece on installation art and architecture; and an essay on MOS movies. The one-page "General Observations" are a nice break from the longer pieces, and they show that brevity can be an asset: one on Paul Goldberger's appearances on the Colbert Report hit the nail on the head, arguing that the writer' moments in the spotlight could have elevated both architectural criticism and the architectural profession, but he unfortunately reduced architecture to concerns of money and historical buildings.