28 in 28 #19: Design Bureau Special Edition: Architecture

February is Book Month on A Daily Dose of Architecture. The "28 in 28" series features a different book every day of the month.

Architecture: The People, Places, and Ideas Driving Contemporary Design, Design Bureau Special Edition
ALARM Press, 2012
Paperback, 448 pages

It was one year ago that I got my first look at Design Bureau, a magazine out of Chicago that presents various facets of design: architecture, interior design, product design, and some fashion. Back then I reviewed the "Renegade Architecture" issue, which has a good helping of architecture alongside the other realms of design. Architecture again rises to the fore in DB's first Special Edition on "the people, places, and ideas driving contemporary design." The sizable collection of 100 projects follows the magazine's recipe, for good and bad.

What I appreciate most about DB is the editors' knack for finding really good design that is not limited to what is brand new. They appear to realize that a magazine cannot break a story or start a meme like a blog or other website; instead they focus on presenting really good modern design really well. This is not to say that they are reaching back decades, but opening the window a bit beyond the last week, month, even year is liberating; it lets quality trump freshness. That curating quality extends to this special edition on architecture, but it's a more diverse collection than I'm used to with the magazines. A good deal of neo-traditional design is found in these pages, but modern design is still the majority.

The 100 projects are split into nine chapters: Modernized Minimalism; Big Design, Small Scale; Before/After; Waterfront Homes; Notes from the Bureau; Public Places; Suburbia Today; Hospitality Hotspots; Luxe Homes. My favorites are: Modernized Minimalism, a good selection of mainly houses that benefits from short interviews with architects about the projects' minimalist qualities; Before/After highlights the dramatic transformations that can occur when an old building is saved; Public Places has an interesting selection of parks, museums, and other publicly accessible buildings and spaces with thorough descriptions (the book's diversity is evident in the juxtaposition of the BSA Space followed by the Grand Ole Opry's flood rebuild).

Questionable are parts of the chapters Big Design, Small Scale (an unexceptional yogurt shop and store for running shoes), Notes from the Bureau (an interview with the designer of Papa John's stores?!), and Suburbia Today (does an unbuilt project for NoHo really tell us about the suburbs today?). These and other examples serve to illustrate DB's business model, in which participating companies (contractors, manufacturers, architects) supply advertising, something I had mentioned in my first review with some trepidation (are projects selected based on the willingness of players to advertise?). With this special edition it's odd to see so many ads (the Notes chapter has one page per spread with ads), but this means it exists somewhere between a magazine and a book. Those expecting a book may be disappointed, but those expecting an over-sized magazine will be pleasantly surprised at the large and diverse quality of architecture within.


  1. I love the Modern minimalism look! Can't wait for the over-sized magazine!

  2. Yes, Design Bureau most certainly ties publication to payment. They approached our firm very excited to feature our work- and we were excited too... until they withdrew the offer to cover our work because we weren't willing to purchase advertising along with it.

  3. Same thing happened with my firm. Design Bureau is Pay-To-Play. Too bad really.

  4. Same thing here-and they try and get ahold of all of your contacts to sell advertising to them as well, which is the worst.

  5. Also had the same experience - initial flattery, then the "pay to play" reveal. We politely turned it down, now we get emails from different "account managers" every few months. When I don't respond, they start emailing others in the office. Very Frustrating.

  6. We just had the same experience. The problem for us is that we worked on a project with an Interior Designer. She seems willing to pay to advertise, then have the "editorial" run, but we are not. Will there now be an editorial run without our name as Architect? Will they run the photos we partially paid for (we split the cost of photos with the Interior Designer)? We jointly own those photos and at the very least have the right to have our name published as Architect in con-junction. This seems like a very slippery slope for DB. It also dilutes the magazine's credibility. Only publishing great design if they receive payment? What great design gets left on the cutting floor?

  7. Love the logo mark for Design Bureau, anyone happen to know what font they're using for the heading?

  8. indeed.......it is pay to play......I think this is the model going forward....some one has to pay the "account managers".....


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